Last updated: 12 June, 2012

Egypt parliament elects constitutional panel

Egypt’s parliament on Tuesday elected a commission tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution following last week’s agreement that capped a nearly three-month row.

A joint session of the upper and lower houses of parliament elected the 100 members who will sit on the constitutional panel, though their names were not immediately made public.

The agreement to elect the representatives to the key body was struck last week at a meeting between members of political parties, including Islamists who dominate parliament, and Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

According to delegates who attended the meeting, it was agreed that 39 seats would be be allocated to representatives of the political parties within the People’s Assembly, or lower house of parliament which is dominated by Islamists.

Another six seats were to go to judges, while nine would be be filled by experts in law, and one each for the armed forces, the police and the justice ministry.

Professional unions were to get 13 seats while public figures who were to be chosen at Tuesday’s joint meeting would be given a total of 21 seats.

Five seats would be also be allocated to Al-Azhar, the Cairo-based prestigious Sunni authority, and four to Christian churches in Egypt, including the country’s largest, the Coptic church.

Any decisions taken by the panel are to be endorsed by 67 percent of the body — an apparent move to ensure that Islamists will not have the upper hand.

On April 10 a Cairo administrative court suspended the Islamist-dominated panel amid a boycott by liberals, moderate Muslims and the Coptic church.

The court gave no reason for its decision which came after lawyers and liberal political parties had filed a complaint accusing the Islamist-majority parliament, which formed the panel, of abuse of power.

Egypt’s military suspended the constitution when they took power last year after a popular uprising forces veteran leader Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The initial panel was announced in March but it was doomed from the start with liberal and leftist parties accusing Islamists of domination while others, including Al-Azhar and the Coptic church, saying they were under-represented.

Egypt is to hold a presidential run-off election on June 16-17, in which Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi will square off against Mubarak’s last premier Ahmad Shafiq.

In the first round, Mursi won 24.77 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of Shafiq’s 23.66 percent.