The head of the assembly drafting Egypt’s new constitution said the final draft should be finished on Wednesday, as the Islamist-dominated body races to finish a process that has helped to trigger a political crisis.
The constitution is a crucial element of Egypt's transformation to a new system of government after last year’s overthrow of the autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak.
But it is also one of the reasons why President Mohamed Morsy is at loggerheads with his non-Islamist opponents, in particular over a decree he issued last Thursday that expanded his powers.
According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, assembly head Hossam al-Gheriany called on members who have withdrawn or frozen their membership to return to the assembly for the interests of the country.
Gheriany said at the beginning of the constitution-writing body’s Wednesday session that some of those who withdrew faced partisan pressure. He called on all members to attend the Thursday session for the final debate and vote on the draft constitution, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
“If you are upset by the decree, nothing will stop it except a new constitution issued immediately,” Gheriany said, referring to Morsy’s controversial 22 November constitutional declaration, which protects the constitutional panel from dissolution by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Three other members of the assembly, which is being boycotted by most of its non-Islamist members, said there were plans to put the document to a vote on Thursday.
A Muslim Brotherhood official who declined to be named also said a quick conclusion of the constitutional process could offer a way out of the crisis, because the decree would be overridden by the new constitution.
He said Thursday would be a “great day,” without elaborating, and also called on the members who had withdrawn from the body to return.
Gheriany said members should come early to Thursday’s session, which would start at 10 am.
Assembly members Younis Makhyoun and Salah Abdel Maboud, both Salafi Islamists, both told Reuters a vote on the final draft was planned for Thursday. Amr Abdel Hadi, one of the few remaining liberal members, said the same.
“We will finish today and there is agreement on almost all articles … and then we will start voting,” Makhyoun said.
Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa said the effort to finish the draft did not make sense because of widespread anger with the Islamist-dominated body.
"This is nonsensical and one of the steps that shouldn't be taken, given the background of anger and resentment to the current constitutional assembly," he told Reuters.
Numerous members have recently withdrawn from the assembly or frozen their membership, including Moussa, representatives of the Egyptian churches, former speaker of the Constituent Assembly Wahid Abdel Meguid, constitutional expert Gaber Nasser, poet Farouk Gowaida, Wafd Party deputy head Fouad Badrawy and Journalists Syndicate chief Mamdouh al-Wali.