Islamist heads panel drafting Egypt´s constitution (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Jailan Zayan 03/28/12)
AFP} Agence France Presse
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Members of a disputed panel drafting Egypt´s new constitution elected
an Islamist as its head on Wednesday, intensifying a stand-off with
secularists over the country´s post-revolution charter.
Saad al-Katatni, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the current
speaker of the Islamist-dominated parliament was chosen as the head
of the constituent assembly, during its first session.
The panel, which is made up of more than 60 percent Islamists, has
been at the centre of a dispute with the country´s secular forces who
fear their calls for a civil state will be muffled.
Katatni´s appointment comes after liberal, leftist and independent
parties and figures angrily withdrew from the committee, accusing
Islamists of monopolising the process.
Only 74 of the 100-member panel attended the first session, with 71
voting for Katatni, the official MENA news agency reported.
The constituent assembly´s legitimacy was further called into
question after Egypt´s Supreme Constitutional Court announced it was
withdrawing its representative from the panel earlier on Wednesday.
The crisis comes at a critical time in Egypt´s transition, with the
first presidential elections since a popular uprising ousted veteran
leader Hosni Mubarak less than two months away.
The revolt paved the way for the formation of dozens of political
groups and movements of all political stripes, but it is the
Islamists -- the most organised and with a wide network of supporters-
- who have gained the most since the revolt.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Salafist Al-Nur
party together went on to dominate both houses of parliament in
recent parliamentary elections, sparking fears among secularists and
the Coptic minority of restrictions on freedoms.
Last week, parliament voted for the constituent assembly to be made
up of 50 lawmakers from the upper and lower houses of parliament, and
50 public figures.
But secular politicians and activists argued that such a high
proportion of legislators gave Islamists too much control of the
After voting on Saturday night, the 100-member panel was made of up
more than 60 percent Islamists, and included five women and six
On Wednesday´s sessions, the members of the panel sought to reassure
the public, insisting that the constitution would be for all
Writing the constitution requires "wisdom and political
responsibility, away from partisan gains," Katatni told the
constituent assembly in its first session.
Others said the withdrawals would not affect the order of business,
since legislators had drawn up a list of back-up members.
It was not clear what percentage of withdrawals would invalidate the
Several lawsuits were filed by legal experts challenging the validity
constituent assembly, with one argument being that a constitution
cannot be drafted by those whose role it will define.
Protests on Tuesday and Wednesday have called for the dissolution of
the panel, demanding it be made up entirely of non-parliamentarians.
The recent debate over the panel "has cast a heavy cloud of doubt and
confusion over its members, and cast a dark shadow of (legal)
challenges to (its) formation and procedure," the Supreme
Constitutional Court´s spokesman, Judge Maher Sami, told reporters.
He said the court had decided to steer clear of any disagreements or
clashes caused by this doubt, prompting it to withdraw Saleh from the
constituent assembly after he was elected a member. (Copyright © 2012
Agence France Presse. 03/28/12)
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