A presidentially appointed 10-member panel has completed work on a draft constitution, and state-affiliated media have reported on its key elements in recent days. Along with clamping down on religious political parties, the proposed charter repeals a move by Morsi to strengthen the role of Islamic law in Egypt.
The draft is expected to be sent this week to another presidential panel, consisting of 50 people drawn from a cross-section of society, including the large trade unions, major religious groups, political parties, the security establishment and other constituencies. They are to make final recommendations in 60 days.
A constitutional referendum would follow in the fall — the second such vote in as many years — and set the stage for national elections to choose a new president.
Egypt’s second-largest Islamist organization, the Salafist Nour party, has agreed to join the panel, but the Muslim Brotherhood has not been included. Much of the Brotherhood’s leadership has been imprisoned and is facing criminal charges, including inciting violence — accusations that the group describes as politically motivated.
Egypt has struggled for decades to find a formula that balances the role of Islam with the rights of the country’s Christian minority and a strong secular current. As details of the draft constitution emerge, it is far from certain that this round of the process will be any more successful than the others.
Even supporters of the process acknowledge that it is unlikely to produce a national consensus, given the summer’s tumult. But it may, they say, win enough backing for the country to move forward.
“We are in a very sensitive and critical state right now,” said Ahmed Saeed, head of the Free Egyptians Party, one of the groups invited to nominate members to the constitutional advisory panel. “If we really work on women’s rights and children’s rights and press rights, our sector of society — civil Egypt — will be happy. To reach consensus is another matter. . . . I don’t think [the Muslim Brotherhood] will accept it.”
Egypt has about 53 million voting-age citizens. About 26 million participated in last year’s presidential election, which Morsi won. Over the objections of many moderates, he pushed through a new constitution that garnered about 11 million votes in a referendum late last year.