Egypt Assembly Seeks to Wrap Up Constitution
Protesters hit a riot policeman (C) after surrounding him during clashes in front of the U.S Embassy near Tahrir Square, Cairo
The assembly writing Egypt’s constitution said it could wrap up a final draft later on Wednesday, a move the Muslim Brotherhood sees as a way out of a crisis over a decree by President Mohamed Mursi that protesters say gives him dictatorial powers.
But as Mursi’s opponents staged a sixth day of protests in Tahrir Square, critics said the Islamist-dominated assembly’s bid to finish the constitution quickly could make matters worse.
Two people have been killed and hundreds injured in countrywide protest set off by Mursi’s decree, reports Reuters.
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The Brotherhood hopes to end the crisis by replacing Mursi’s controversial decree with an entirely new constitution that would need to be approved in a popular referendum, a Brotherhood official told Reuters.
It is a gamble based on the Islamists’ belief that they can mobilize enough voters to win the referendum: they have won all elections held since Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power.
But the move seemed likely to deepen divisions that are being exposed in the street.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies called for protests on Saturday in Tahrir Square, setting the stage for more confrontation with their opponents, who staged a mass rally there on Tuesday.
The constitution is one of the main reasons Mursi is at loggerheads with non-Islamist opponents. They are boycotting the 100-member constitutional assembly, saying the Islamists have tried to impose their vision for Egypt’s future.
The assembly’s legal legitimacy has been called into question by a series of court cases demanding its dissolution. Its popular legitimacy has been hit by the withdrawal of members including church representatives and liberals.
“We will start now and finish today, God willing,” Hossam el-Gheriyani, the assembly speaker, said at the start of its latest session in Cairo, saying Thursday would be “a great day”.
“If you are upset by the decree, nothing will stop it except a new constitution issued immediately,” he said. Three other members of the assembly told Reuters there were plans to put the document to a vote on Thursday.