Egypt judiciary suspends Islamist-led constitution panel


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.
The secular parties have already withdrawn from the commission, believing that their presence was only used as a smoke screen allowing the Islamists to draft a basic law that reflects their political-religious ideologies. The prestigious Sunni Islamic institution, Al-Azhar, and the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt have also decided to boycott the panel.
Islamists believe the commission should reflect the composition of a parliament, where the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) holds nearly half the seats and the Salafists Al-Nur party almost one quarter. The secularists want a more balanced commission, fearing that the Islamist grip would lead to the strengthening of a demand for Islamic sharia law to be the point of reference for legislation.
On Tuesday, around 150 people demonstrated outside the offices of the State Council, which has the power to rule on administrative disputes, to protest against Islamist control of the constitutional project.