Vote on Egypt’s Constitution Hurried Amid Anti-Morsi Protests

Morsi tried to maintain the legitimacy of the constitutional assembly through dictatorial measures

by John Glaser, November 28, 2012

The council assigned to draft Egypt’s new constitution has decided to rush the vote on a final draft, as hundreds protest in Tahrir Square against President Morsi’s recent dictatorial decrees.

“By late on Thursday afternoon, the constituent assembly, which has been boycotted by liberals and Christians, had approved almost one-fifth of 234 articles,” Al Jazeera reports, including “a unanimous decision to retain the principles of Islamic law as the main source of legislation.”

When Morsi issued a decree last week that placed his rule above any judicial oversight, he did it with in constitutional assembly in mind. Amid accusations that the council was being co-opted by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, many members quit in protest. Morsi’s decree aimed at maintaining the council’s legitimacy.

Liberals and non-Muslims initially included in the drafting of the constitution boycotted it because, they charge, it leans toward Islamic law at the expense of civil rights.

“The Muslim Brotherhood are stealing the constitution,” Sameh Ashour, head of the lawyers’ syndicate and a former member of the council told CNN. “They are tailoring it according to their view after Coptic church representatives, civil movements, and revolutionary representatives withdrew.”

Morsi is scheduled to address the nation on Thursday, in response to widespread protests.

“The president will address the nation on state TV on Thursday evening and will speak about the constitutional decree and why it was issued as well as the events that ensued afterwards,” said the source.

But the supreme court, packed with Mubarak appointees, remained defiant against Morsi’s decree undermining the judiciary. Court spokesman Maher Samy told reporters the court “will not be intimidated, blackmailed or threatened, and we will not be subjected to any pressure regardless of how strong this pressure is. We are united.”

The power struggle going on in Egypt is complex, but the US isn’t sitting on the sidelines. Washington still gives the Egyptian government almost $1.5 billion plus security assistance every year. The US isn’t any more disturbed by Morsi’s decree than they were with Mubarak’s autocratic emergency laws.

As Esam Al-Amin described current US policy towards Egypt: “the strategy is to give the Islamic rising powers a chance to govern as long as they agree to: keep the Americans in, the Chinese and Russians out, the Iranians down, and the Israelis safe.”

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