Egypt Top Court Protests Constitution Draft as Date Set for Vote

Egypt’s highest court plans to remain in permanent session to protest articles related to it in the country’s draft constitution, as the panel writing the charter set a mid-November date to vote on the document.

The Supreme Constitutional Court said today it opposes articles in the draft that dealt with the court, the appointment of its justices and its purview. The court’s head, Maher El-Beheiry, said the court was in permanent session to monitor the progress of the draft, the state-run Ahram Gate website reported.

Drafts of the constitution unveiled in the past few days have fueled concern among secularists and youth groups that say Islamists are dominating the writing of the charter and liberties are being threatened. The dispute, in tandem with broader political fissures, is weighing on efforts to revive the economy after last year’s uprising.

The Islamist “electoral machine is strong,” Hani Sabra, a Mideast analyst at the Eurasia Group, said today in e-mailed comments. The secularists may struggle to win support from a population weary of the unrest since last year’s uprising, he said.

“More Egyptians are concerned with ending the constitutional void than they are with issues like press freedom, women’s rights or separation of religion and state which secular Egyptians stress,” Sabra said.

Ties Sour

The court’s objections offer another perspective into the rifts between the Islamists that comprise the majority on the panel and secular groups and youth activists who accuse the Islamists of trying to monopolize power.

The 100-member constitutional committee, which faces legal challenges, will begin discussing the final draft on Nov. 4 and a vote will be held in the second week of the month, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported, citing committee head Hosam El-Gharbany.

A partial draft of the constitution released last week was among the rallying points for an Oct. 12 protest that turned violent as secular groups and youth activists clashed with members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party. The demonstrations, which left 140 wounded, underscored the escalation of tensions between the two sides since President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist, was sworn into office in June.

The latest dispute between the judiciary and the Islamists occurred after Mursi tried -- and failed -- to appoint Egypt’s prosecutor-general as the ambassador to the Vatican. The move came after a Cairo court acquitted two dozen of former President Hosni Mubarak’s top aides and supporters on charges linked to an fatal clash in the early days of the uprising that was dubbed the Battle of the Camel.

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