Egypt draft constitution to be ready by November

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A new Egyptian constitution replacing the one suspended after President Mohammad Mursi’s ouster will be put to a referendum by the end of November, a spokesperson for the drafting panel said on Sunday.

According to a timetable set by the military-backed government the new charter would lead to parliamentary and then presidential elections by mid-2014.

“According to the presidential decree... the new document ... will be subject to referendum ... expected within two weeks after finishing our task,” Mohamed Salmawy was quoted as saying by AFP.

The 50-member panel tasked with drafting the constitution started its work on September 8, with 60 days to finalize the document.

Salmawy said the panel, which has been divided into six sub-committees, has already approved about one third of the articles, especially those dealing with “human rights and liberties.”

He said each article had to be approved by at least 75 percent of the members for it to be incorporated in the constitution according to AFP.

Controversial issues are still under discussion especially such as the status of the army whose budget was never open for scrutiny under previous constitutions, he added.

The military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ousted Mursi on July 3 following massive protests demanding the his resignation after a year in office.

Salmawy said the other sensitive issue was military trials for civilians, which were allowed in some cases under Mursi’s constitution.

“There is a very strong opinion inside the committee, and also outside, against military trials of civilians. The general feeling is not very sympathetic,” towards such trials, he said.

Egyptian human rights organizations have condemned the military trials of civilians, saying that about 60 convictions have been passed by army tribunals since July 3.

The panel will also examine what kind of political system Egypt will adopt in the future and whether to cancel the Shura council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, which many see as ineffective..

Another issue to be decided is whether candidates in upcoming parliamentary elections will run as individuals or on party lists.

Mursi the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president then had rushed the previous constitution through a referendum in December 2012, after declaring his decisions beyond judicial review, which sparked a deep political crisis.

The constitution which was drafted by a mainly Islamist committee encouraged conservative interpretations of Islam as a primary source of legislation.

The new drafting assembly has only two Islamists, the presidency said it asked the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Brotherhood’s political arm, to join but the Islamist group denied it received an invitation.

Following Mursi’s overthrow, police have arrested more than 2,000 Islamists, including many leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

(With AFP)

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