Egypt:Constitution panel on track despite boycott

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CAIRO — The head of Egypt’s constitutional assembly said Wednesday the committee will forge ahead with its work despite appeals from liberals, Christians and others who walked out in protest against the Islamist domination of the panel.

The walkouts are angry that the Islamist majority parliament appointed a panel that they say is not representative of minorities and other political factions. The makeup of the 100-member panel currently boasts 60 people affiliated with Islamist groups. The new constitution will determine whether Egypt leans toward more conservative Islam and whether the decades-old system that concentrated power in the hands of the president will be maintained or replaced by an empowered parliament under an Islamist majority. Liberals and secular-minded Egyptians say a new charter should be written by a broad swath of Egyptian society and not by a parliamentary majority. If the walkouts don’t return, reserves will be used to fill all the walkouts’ seats.

Ahmed el-Naggar, a committee member who pulled out, said religious institutions, such as Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, were underrepresented.

“Islam has become what it means to the Brotherhood and the Salafis only,” he said.

Egypt’s Islamist groups make up nearly three-quarters of parliament after sweeping the elections. Some Islamists on the panel say the number of walkouts is insufficient to call for its dissolution and the creation of a new panel from scratch, while others contend that an elected Islamist majority is entitled to dominate the process.

Critics said that the constitution’s legitimacy could be threatened if the views of those who are boycotting the process — representatives of minorities, women, religious institutions and political factions — are left out.

Published on Thursday April 5, 2012 as: Egyptians protest Islamist constitutional comittee majority