Egypt Constitution-Writing Committee to Include 50 Lawmakers

Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament voted to include 50 of its lawmakers in a 100-member panel tasked with writing a new constitution, with the remainder coming from other institutions.

The results were read by Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, speaker of the lower house of parliament, according to footage of the session posted on the Cabinet’s Facebook page.

“The proposal that has received the most votes is the one stating that 50 percent of the composition of the constituent assembly comes from within parliament and 50 percent from outside parliament, including all institutions, civil society institutions and public personalities,” el-Katatni said.

The makeup of the committee has been the focus of wrangling over the degree of influence Islamist groups will have shaping the constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood’s party alliance makes up the largest bloc in the recently elected parliament, followed by a Salafi alliance. Salafis are followers of an austere interpretation of Islam.

“You’re going to agree on 100 people, and then get those 100 people to agree on politically-charged issues that have created a lot of polarization in Egypt: the role of the military, oversight over the military budget, the role of religion in public life, the division of power between parliament and the president,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said by phone. “That’s a challenge.”

Regime Critics

Secular politicians and those concerned that Islamist parliamentarians will dominate the committee have called for the inclusion of members from outside the legislature.

The Brotherhood and its party have tried to assuage such fears. Mohamed Morsi, chairman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said in a statement last month that the group is “keen on the participation of all groups, institutions, parties and political and societal forces” in the drafting body.

Critics of the ruling military council have said they don’t want the charter drawn up while the generals are still at the helm, concerned they may try to influence the process and enshrine privileges for the armed forces.

Activists accuse the military council, which assumed interim rule from Hosni Mubarak, of mismanaging the transition and trying to hold on to power. The generals have said they will stay until a president is elected.

The presidential elections commission announced on Feb. 29 that Egyptians at home will vote for a new president on May 23 and 24, and that the final result will be announced on June 21.

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