CAIRO - A 50-member panel tasked with amending Egypt's constitution has approved a new draft and will send it to Egypt's interim president Tuesday for his approval. It then must be approved by voters and would replace the pro-Islamic document enacted under ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
The overnight session of Egypt's constitutional committee ended in the wee hours of the morning with a near unanimous consensus over most of the 147 articles. Much of the lengthy session was broadcast on state television, giving the public a close-up view of deliberations.
Interim President Adly Mansour, who heads Egypt's Constitutional Court, must sign the draft before it is put to a popular referendum. If Egyptians approve the new constitution, the country will then embark on the process of parliamentary and presidential elections.
Veteran Egyptian politician Amr Moussa, who chairs the constitutional committee, refused to specify, however, whether the presidential or the parliamentary election would be held first.
He said that one election will take place from one to three months after the new constitution goes into effect and that the second election will take place no later than six months after the constitution is enacted.
There has been much speculation in the Egyptian press over whether defense minister and army commander General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi intends to run for president. Photos and portraits of a smiling el-Sissi have become a fixture on Cairo streets in recent months.
Not everyone appears to be happy with the new draft constitution. A group of Muslim Brotherhood leaders called the text a “black document."
A 2012 constitution, drawn up by a committee of mostly Islamist legislators, was suspended when the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. That constitution was approved by 63 percent in a public referendum marked by low turnout.
Mohamed Salmawy, who is the spokesman of the committee drafting the latest effort, says the 2013 constitution would bring better days for Egypt:
He says that the new constitution is of greater value than any other constitutional document Egypt has ever known because it separates one era from another, from a period of turmoil, which he said lasted too long, to a future which he hopes will bring stability.
Another member of the constitutional committee, Jaber Nassar, says that the draft constitution will give Egyptians equal rights.
He said the constitution makes discrimination a crime and prevents discrimination due to social class or religion. He says that it makes the son of a peasant equal to the son of the president.
Nezar AlSayyad, who chairs the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies tells VOA that Egypt's constitutional committee did well in drafting the document, although not necessarily a flawless one.
He says they did a job under very difficult circumstances and managed to come together despite representing very different groups. He says it's a panel of compromise and that they ensured the creation of a constitution that is likely to be voted on positively by a majority of Egyptians.
Many elements of the new constitution were drawn from a seminal 1971 document drawn up under the late president Anwar Sadat.