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Constitution draft passed

Controversial draft will be put to public referendum

The draft law was approved after a marathon overnight session (Photo by AFP / Gianluigi Guercia)
The draft law was approved after a marathon overnight session (Photo by AFP / Gianluigi Guercia)

A constitution has been finalised and approved by the Constituent Assembly charged with the drafting process. The final draft will now be presented to President Mohamed Morsy on Saturday, in advance of a popular referendum.

The members of the assembly voted separately on each article. The process, broadcast live on television, dragged on until past midnight on Thursday. Every article was approved for inclusion, according to Al-Ahram state media.

Notably absent were 26 members who previously withdrew from the assembly, including representatives of the Christian community, prominent non-Islamist politicians such as Amr Moussa, and prominent youth activists such as Ahmed Maher.

The members who withdrew at different stages cited disillusionment with the decision making process and the alleged unwillingness of the Islamist majority to compromise.

To pass the draft, 11 members were brought in from a reserve list making a total voting body of 85 members on Thursday and Friday.

Criticism of the drafting process, and President Morsy, was prominent during last week and while the constitution was being finalised early on Friday morning, when Tahrir Square was filled with opposition protestors continuing a sit in.

Widespread and high profile public opposition to the constitution will likely play an important role when the document is put to a public vote some time in the next month.

On Friday Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report discussing some of the sections of the draft related to human rights and personal freedoms. Due to the homogenous, religious nature of the final voting body, these sections have been under close scrutiny.

In the broadest sense, personal rights are protected by the constitution as long as they do not contradict ethics, morals, the public order, or “the true nature of the Egyptian family.

Freedom of expression will still be tempered by the illegality of “insulting” individuals or prophets. Lately this has been a key issue as a spate of judges has accused lawyers and media members of insulting them. Freedom of religion is extended only to Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The constitution makes a token gesture towards tackling gender discrimination, saying, “The state shall provide for special care and protection for single mothers, divorced women and widows.”

In an interview given while the draft was being passed, President Morsy stressed that his newly assumed powers will end after the constitution is put to a referendum.


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