Members of the constituent assembly vote on a draft of a new Egyptian constitution Thursday.
In a rush to make a law of the land before a court ruling could dissolve their panel, Islamists in Egypt’s constituent assembly inflamed their opposition by passing a draft constitution without input from liberal and Christian members.
Civil rights experts say the charter advanced by the vote could give Muslim clerics the power to limit freedom of speech, women’s rights and other liberties. The draft will likely get to President Mohamed Morsi’s desk Saturday. It must be put to a nationwide referendum within 30 days.
Liberals, secularists and Christians, a minority on the 100-member panel, have been protesting the Islamists’ control over the process for weeks amid an increasingly tense relationship between the president and his opposition. To the fury of demonstrators, Morsi extended his presidential powers late last week.
The sudden rush to finish came as the latest twist in a week-long crisis pitting the Brotherhood veteran Morsi and his Islamist supporters against a mostly secular and liberal opposition and the powerful judiciary. Voting had not been expected for another two months. But the assembly abruptly moved it up in order to pass the draft before Egypt’s supreme constitutional court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel.
“I am saddened to see this come out while Egypt is so divided,” Egypt’s top reform leader, the Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, said on al-Nahar TV. But he predicted the document would not last long. “It will be part of political folklore and will go to the garbage bin of history.”
A new opposition bloc led by ElBaradei and other liberals said the assembly had lost its legitimacy. “It is trying to impose a constitution monopolised by one trend and is the furthest from national consensus, produced in a farcical way,” the National Salvation Front said in a statement read out by Waheed Abdel-Meguid, one of the assembly members who withdrew.