Egypt to elect panel for new constitution
Cairo, March 24, 2012
Egypt's Islamist-dominated parliament will later in the day pick members of a body tasked with drafting a new constitution, a document that could decide which branch of state will effectively rule the country for years to come.
The constitution will define the balance of power between parliament and president, the role of Islamic sharia law in statute and society, and also the political role of the military - in power since Mubarak's fall in a popular uprising last year.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which controls most seats in both chambers of the parliament, said it seeks an all-embracing constituent assembly.
In a statement the FJP said: 'The party's parliamentary bloc is keen to include all political and ideological streams in the assembly, as well as, representing all sectors of Egyptian society ... including youth, women and Copts' representatives.'
Those groups currently occupy just a handful of seats and liberals together hold less than one third of parliamentary seats. Many of them say the Islamist majority is attempting to eliminate alternative political streams and civil society from the 100-strong constitution-setting body.
Armed with popular legitimacy from Egypt's freest vote since army officers ousted the king in 1952, the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Salafi Islamists now dominate parliament following a tortuous voting process that ended in January.
However, most analysts agree that the Brotherhood, formed in 1928, is seasoned by decades of patient grass-roots work and is unlikely to rush to impose purist Islamic codes, tear up Egypt's peace treaty with Israel or confront Washington.
Under Egypt's interim constitution, the new assembly must draft a new constitution within six months once it is formed.
The new document will replace a one that helped keep Mubarak in power for three decades and was a cornerstone of his rule.
The upper and lower house of the parliament agreed in a meeting last week that lawmakers would select half the assembly's members from within their own ranks and pick the other 50 members from other parts of society.
Non-parliamentary members may come from trade unions, civil society groups and from the public at large and will have to win a simple majority of MPs' votes. Some organisations will be allowed to nominate their own members.
Parliament will also choose 40 reserve candidates.-Reuters