Morsi speeds up constitution draft in bid to defuse crisis
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s president, has tried to defuse an escalating political crisis over his assumption of near absolute powers by accelerating the adoption of a new constitution.
The move could lead to Mr Morsi relinquishing his new authority within weeks.
After a mass protest on Tuesday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square the Islamist-dominated panel drawing up the constitution said it would vote on a final draft today.
Accelerating the adoption of the constitution could allow it to be put to a referendum in two weeks and open the way for the country to proceed swiftly to parliamentary elections.
Mr Morsi had said the new powers he gave himself last week, which put his legal decisions above the law, were temporary and to be exercised only until a new assembly was in place.
But an official of his Muslim Brotherhood group said yesterday that the president would give up his new powers once a constitution was adopted. “The president will give up the immunity of his decisions to legal challenges as soon as there is a new constitution,” the official said.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians protested against the president’s decree on Tuesday, flooding Tahrir Square, the centre of last year’s revolt against the rule of Hosni Mubarak.
Judges across the country have gone on strike and the constitutional court, the highest judicial authority in the country, issued a sharp rebuke to the president yesterday, saying it would not be intimidated or succumb to pressure.
Observers said Mr Morsi had been looking for a way to contain the crisis without losing face.
In accelerating the drafting of the constitution, the president will probably have to sacrifice the consensus that the Brotherhood group had repeatedly promised would be enshrined in the document.
The drafting panel has been dominated by Islamists. Liberal members of the drafting assembly and representatives of Egypt’s three main churches walked out this month protesting that their concerns were being brushed aside.
In one of the provisions of his edict last week, Mr Morsi extended the deadline for completion of the constitution to mid-February to provide an opportunity for consensus to be achieved. He also insulated the assembly from any potential court ruling that might disband it. The constitutional court has been considering a legal challenge to the panel. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012