July 21, 2013

Egypt's leader appoints panel to draft amendments to charter

The Associated Press

CAIRO - Egypt's interim president named a committee of legal experts Saturday to propose amendments to the country's Islamist-drafted constitution after a popularly backed military coup ousted the country's first freely elected president.

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An opponent of ousted President Mohammed Morsi watches during a rally at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, late Friday. Protests and demonstrations both for and against Morsi continue.

The Associated Press

It is the latest push by the country's new leadership to move ahead with a military-backed timetable for a return to democratic rule despite determined protests by former President Mohammed Morsi's supporters over his ouster. The drafting of Egypt's constitution was one of the most divisive issues that came to characterize Morsi's first and only year in office.

His Muslim Brotherhood group officially has refused to negotiate with the new government, saying they are open for talks only after Morsi is reinstated. They say the only legitimate constitution is the one voted on and ratified by Morsi in December.

Liberals twice walked out of committees drafting the charter under Morsi, complaining that the Brotherhood and its allies dominated the process and stifled their suggestions.

Protests over the constitution and the direction of the country turned deadly after Morsi issued temporary decrees in late November that put himself and the drafting committee above judicial oversight. The charter was then finalized in a rushed overnight session and passed in a nationwide referendum. The military suspended the constitution after the July 3 coup.

In a decree Saturday, interim President Adly Mansour appointed the 10-member committee that will propose amendments to the constitution. The committee is comprised of six judges -- two from the Supreme Constitutional Court that Adly headed -- and four constitutional law professors.

Committee members have 30 days to suggest amendments. A second committee, comprised of 50 public figures including politicians, unionists and religious figures, will then have 60 days to review those amendments.

After that, citizens will vote on the proposed amendments in a referendum, according to the military-backed timetable. Parliamentary elections are to follow.

Unlike the previous drafting committee under Morsi, at least 20 percent of the second committee is to be represented by young Egyptians who helped galvanize street movements and women.

Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, a leading figure in the Tamarod petition drive that mobilized the massive street protests that led to Morsi's ouster, said his group has launched a new initiative to collect suggestions from Egyptians on the constitution.

"We want to reach a constitution that is representative of the people's will," Abdel-Aziz said.

However, violent protests and continued instability threaten to derail the timetable.

A security official said unidentified assailants threw a bomb Saturday at a police station in the governorate of Ismailiya. No injuries were reported, the official said.


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