Egyptian politicians agree to elect constitutional panel
CAIRO — Egypt’s political parties on Thursday agreed on the formation of a commission tasked with drafting a new constitution, capping a row that lasted nearly three months, officials said.
The agreement was struck at a meeting between representatives of the political parties, including Islamists who dominate parliament, and Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the sources said.
At the end of the meeting Tantawi called for a joint meeting of the lower and upper houses of parliament to take place next Tuesday to elect the 100 members who will sit on the constitutional panel.
According to delegates who attended the meeting, it was agreed that 39 seats will 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 will go to judges, while nine will be filled by experts in law, and one each for the armed forces, the police and the justice ministry.
Professional unions are to get 13 seats while public figures to be chosen at Tuesday’s meeting will be given a total of 21 seats.
Five seats will 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.
At the meeting political parties also agreed that in the future any decision taken by the panel must be endorsed by 67 percent of the body — an apparent move to ensure that Islamists will not have the upper hand, the delegates said.
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 election runoff on June 16-17, in which Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi is to 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.