Egyptian assembly adopts final draft of new constitution
As clashes continued in the streets of Cairo yesterday, Egypt’s constituent assembly rushed to adopt a final draft of the new constitution in an attempt to pre-empt Sunday’s expected supreme court decision to dissolve the fundamentalist-dominated body.
This is certain to escalate the confrontation between largely secular revolutionaries and veteran Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, who has assumed powers to override the judiciary, the sole branch of government he does not control.
Thousands of Egyptians are set to rally across the country today against last week’s power grab by Mr Morsi who has pledged to cede his newly acquired controls as soon as the new constitution is adopted by referendum in mid-December.
Protester fury can be expected to spike over the imposition of a constitution written by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party and the ultra-orthodox Salafi Nour party.
The assembly opened with the formal dismissal of 11 of the more than 30 liberal members who were boycotting it and their replacement by fundamentalists, giving the 100-member body more than enough votes to adopt the constitution but depriving it of legitimacy.
The draft proved inflammatory from the outset of debate. Despite liberal and Salafi protests, Article 2 of the old constitution was retained. This states that “the principles of Islamic law” (Sharia) will be the basis of law. Secularists wanted a purely civil constitution while Salafis insisted that Sharia, with its corporal punishments, should be the law of the land.
Although presidents have been limited to two terms and some civilian oversight is imposed on the military, human rights activists condemn the lack of provisions ending military trials for civilians and asserting equality between men and women.
Rights activists express particular concern over an article saying that the state will protect “the true nature of the Egyptian family . . . and promote its morals and values” and holds that a woman must create a balance between “duties to her family” and “public work”.