Egypt power struggle: Assembly backs draft constitution
Egypt's Islamist-dominated constituent assembly has approved a draft constitution, as the judiciary threatens to dissolve it amid a power struggle with President Mohammed Morsi.

The draft will now be sent to Mr Morsi, who is expected to call a referendum.

It was approved days before the Supreme Constitutional Court rules on whether the assembly should be dissolved.

Senior judges have been in a stand-off with the president since he granted himself sweeping new powers.

An emergency decree issued last week said Mr Morsi's decisions could not be revoked by any authority, including the judiciary, until the new constitution had been ratified and fresh parliamentary elections held.

It also stated that the courts could not dissolve the constituent assembly.

The president insists the powers he has taken are meant to be temporary and will protect the transition to a constitutional democracy, but their breadth has raised fears that he might become a new strongman and triggered mass opposition protests across the country.

'Nonsensical'

The assembly backed all the 234 articles of the draft after a marathon session that began on Thursday and continued through the night.

Its aim was clearly to pre-empt any challenge by the courts, which are in a confrontation with Mr Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood which backs him, says the BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo.

Liberal, left-wing and Christian members of the constitutional assembly boycotted the vote, accusing the Islamists of trying to impose their vision.

According to Egyptian state TV, the articles passed stipulate that Islam is the religion of the state, and the principles of Sharia, or Islamic law, are the "main source of legislation".

This is unchanged from the previous constitution under Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled as president last year.

Salafists and some members of the Muslim Brotherhood failed to have "principles" replaced by "rules".

The draft also says that Christianity and Judaism will be the "main source of legislation" for Egyptian Christians and Jews, state TV reported.

The assembly also adopted a new article that al-Azhar mosque and university, authorities on Sunni Muslim jurisprudence, must be consulted on "matters related to sharia".

The president will be limited to two four-year terms of office.

The opponents of the draft voiced concern that some clauses - such as the importance of promoting family values - could be used to restrict freedom of speech.

They also said that there was no specific article establishing equality between men and women.

Opposition figure and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa told Reuters news agency: "This is nonsensical and one of the steps that shouldn't be taken, given the background of anger and resentment to the current constitutional assembly."

Another opposition leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, said the document would be consigned to the "garbage bin of history", and would only sharpen the current divisions in Egypt.

The Supreme Constitutional Court ruling is expected on Sunday
Last Modified: 2012-11-30 09:11:49
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