Egypt Suspends Panel Tasked with Writing New Constitution
The decision is seen as a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood
A court in Egypt suspended a panel tasked with writing a new constitution. The panel was the subject of a boycott by liberals, moderate liberals and others who oppose the Muslim Brotherhood. Critics of the panel's makeup claimed that the body was stacked with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and said the system for electing representives to the panel favored the majority party too much.
Mohammed Nur Farhat, of the liberal Social Democratic Party, said the "constitutional commission has been made null and void by this judicial decision and may not continue its work."
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An Egyptian court suspended on Tuesday the Islamist-dominated commission tasked with drafting a new constitution amid a boycott by liberals, moderate Muslims and the Coptic church.
The administrative court in Cairo said it was "suspending the constituent assembly" without explaining the reasons,but lawyers and liberal political parties had filed a complaint accusing the Islamist-majority parliament, which formed the panel, of having abused its powers.
The decision comes amid a tense standoff between Islamist and secular forces just six weeks ahead of the country's first post-revolution presidential elections.
Mohammed Nur Farhat, a lawyer and official of the liberal Social Democratic Party said the "constitutional commission has been made null and void by this judicial decision and may not continue its work.
"Parliament must meet to re-form the constitutional commission, and we invite it to begin setting out the criteria that will guarantee an equitable representation of social and political forces, so that it is not dominated by a single political current," he added.
The 100-member panel, which is evenly divided between parliamentarians and public figures, was elected by the parliament, which also voted for a number of reserve candidates who could could replace the panelists.
But most of its members are from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist fundamentalists who hold the majority in both houses of parliament.
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The secular movements, along with Coptic Christians and women’s organizations, were among those opposed to that make up. The groups filed a complaint with the administrative court, not only against the composition of the committee – from which many secular members have already quit - but also urging a change in the method through which representatives are chosen.
According to their complaint, the current method, which basically allows the majority party in parliament to draft the constitution, harms the foundation of a constitution, which should represent all sectors of the public.
In addition, women and Copts are largely disenfranchised within the constitutional committee, because the secular population is largely underrepresented.
The Muslim Brotherhood has claimed that election results are reflective of the entire public, and that the parliament has the right to draft the constitution. Brotherhood representatives have also complained that the administrative court does not have authority to make such a decision.
The court, however, rejected both claims, and abolished the current composition of the constitutional committee, thus striking a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood's ambitions to hold a commanding majority.
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