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Egypt's Draft Constitution to Retain Islamic Law

by VOA News November 29, 2012

A conservative-dominated panel writing Egypt's new constitution has retained the principles of Islamic law as the main source of legislation, hastily rushing through the approval process despite an opposition boycott and a deepening political crisis.

The assembly abruptly moved up the vote to Thursday in order to pass the draft before Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial power, rules Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel. The assembly is voting on the constitution article by article.

Over the past few days, about 30 liberal and Christian members have pulled out of the panel to protest what they call the hijacking of the process by Islamists loyal to President Mohamed Morsi.

The Egyptian leader, who touched off the current upheaval last week when he granted himself sweeping new powers until the constitution was complete, was expected to address the nation later Thursday.

The crisis has set off a week of street protests that have continued unabated. Two people have been killed and hundreds injured in nationwide demonstrations ignited by the president's decree barring the judiciary from challenging his decisions.

​​Egyptians continued protests in Tahrir Square against Morsi for a seventh straight day Thursday, accusing him of assuming dictatorial powers. Clashes between stone-throwing protesters and police launching tear gas canisters continued overnight.

Opposition leaders said they planned to hold more marches Thursday and Friday, and the Muslim Brotherhood has called a rival nationwide demonstration in support of the edict Saturday.

Meanwhile, the constitutional court vowed to resist what it characterized as an attempt by Morsi to undermine the court system. The president extended the deadline to write the constitution from December to February, but the assembly's speaker said the extra time was unnecessary.

If the panel approves the entire draft constitution, Morsi is expected to put it to a public referendum as early as mid-December.

Egypt's highest courts went on strike Wednesday in protest of the president's decrees, vowing to stop their work until the constitutional court rules on Morsi's order granting himself immunity from judicial review.

The president said his decree was designed to protect state institutions.

Morsi later promised the Supreme Judicial Council that he will restrict his newly self-granted powers to "sovereign matters." But the vaguely worded statement did not define the issues over which he would have absolute power.

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