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Egypt’s Parliament Chooses Panel to Write New Constitution

Egypt’s parliament elected a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution for the country, Middle East News Agency reported, as boycotts clouded the process days before a presidential runoff.

The panel chosen last night will include former Egyptian presidential contenders Amre Moussa and Mohammed selim el-Awa; Major General Mamdouh Shahine, a member of the ruling military council; and Mohammed al-Beltaji of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Cairo-based MENA.

Bickering over the makeup of the panel has delayed the drafting of the new constitution, which is expected to lay out the powers of the president. A previous committee on the constitution was disbanded following a court ruling about its composition.

Parliament speaker Mohammed Saad el-Katatni said that 85 percent of the chamber’s legislators participated in last night’s vote, MENA reported.

Fifty-seven lawmakers, including independents and members of political parties, withdrew from the meeting to protest the “stubbornness” of other legislators, the state-run news agency reported, citing lawmaker Ahmed Ziad Bahaa Eddin. The parties that left include the Free Egyptians Party, co-founded by billionaire Naguib Sawiris, according to MENA.

“Sadly, over the past few weeks we had hopes for reaching real consensus, but this didn’t happen,” MENA cited Bahaa Eddin as saying. “We are forced to withdraw after exhausting all efforts to reopen discussions to realize consensus.”

Holding Power

Egypt’s Constitutional Court is to begin evaluating tomorrow a law that would bar some former top officials who served under Mubarak in his last decade in power from holding top posts, including the presidency.

The court also will look at the law that regulated the parliamentary elections. If the court rules against the law, parliament could be disbanded.

A decisive second round of voting that pits the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential hopeful against Ahmed Shafik, who served as Hosni Mubarak’s last premier, is scheduled to begin on June 16.

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