Egypt Parliament Swears in New Members After Charter Vote

Some 90 members of Egypt’s upper house were sworn in today as the until-now toothless body was poised to take up new legislative authority after Islamist President Mohamed Mursi signed the new constitution.

The members of the Shura Council were appointed days earlier by Mursi. The body, that had until now been a consultative entity, will assume temporary legislative powers previously held by Mursi until parliamentary elections, slated to start in 60 days, are held. The swearing-in ceremony was broadcast live on television.

The council’s new role comes as Egypt continues to be battered by the aftershocks of last year’s uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. Standard & Poor’s pushed Egypt’s credit rating deeper into junk status on Dec. 24, citing political tensions that have seen Mursi’s opponents clash with his backers over the constitution. The agency also cut the ratings of three Egyptian banks today, citing the same concerns.

Critics say the new charter boosts the role of Islamic law in the Arab world’s most populous country at the expense of personal freedoms. The charter was approved by the Islamist- dominated panel that drafted it after a quarter of its members announced their withdrawal.

Social Tensions

“Political and social tensions in Egypt have escalated and are likely to remain elevated over the medium term,” S&P said in a statement. “The increased polarization between political forces is likely to weaken the sovereign’s ability to deliver sustainable public finances, promote balance growth, and respond to further economic or political shocks.”

Reflecting the continuing uncertainty, an administrative court today rejected an appeal on the dissolution of parliament, the court said in a faxed statement. Mursi was also slated to speak to the nation tonight, a day after officials said the charter was approved with 64 percent backing it.

Almost 70 percent of the 52 million eligible to cast votes chose not to participate. A fragmented opposition of secularists, minority Christians, political parties and youth activist groups has vowed to fight to have the charter revoked.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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