CAIRO, Nov 30, 2012 (AFP) -
CAIRO, Nov 30, 2012 (AFP) –
An Egyptian panel boycotted by Christians and liberals Friday adopted a draft constitution with an Islamist bent as opposition groups called rallies and warned President Mohamed Morsi of crippling strikes.
The draft constitution, which rights activists say undermines freedoms of women and religious minorities, is expected to go to a referendum within two weeks despite vociferous objections from Morsi’s opponents.
A coalition of leading dissidents formed last week after the Islamist president adopted sweeping and unprecedented powers has warned that an ongoing judicial strike could escalate into mass civil disobedience.
Groups have called for protest rallies on Friday, including in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where three days ago tens of thousands vented their anger at Morsi’s decree, denouncing him as a “dictator” in the mould of toppled president Hosni Mubarak.
A judicial strike, called by the top Cassation Court and several other courts in protest at the decree, could place the referendum itself in jeopardy, if judges who normally supervise elections refuse to grant the vote legitimacy.
The Islamist-dominated assembly, tasked with drafting a new charter to replace the one suspended after president Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011, approved the draft early Friday morning after an almost 24 hour-long session.
The panel’s head, Hossam el-Ghiriani, said a delegation from the Constituent Assembly would visit Morsi on Saturday to present him the draft constitution. Morsi is expected to call for a referendum within two weeks.
Rights activists have lambasted the draft charter, with the Human Rights Watch advocacy group saying it “protects some rights but undermines others”.
“Rushing through a draft while serious concerns about key rights protections remain unaddressed will create huge problems down the road that wont be easy to fix,” the US organisation’s Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement.
The draft retained a vague Mubarak-era constitution article stating that the “principles of Islamic law” are the main source of legislation.
But it added a new provision explaining that the principles of Islamic law were to be interpreted according to the tenets of Sunni Islamic rulings, a clause that Christian churches have opposed.
The draft also allows that state a role in “protecting ethics and morals” and bans “insulting humans”, which rights activists say could censor political criticism of the president.
Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei slammed the draft, saying “it’s fate will be the dustbin of history” in a television interview.
Several private newspapers announced that they would not appear on the street next Tuesday to protest what they consider to be a lack of press guarantees in the new charter.
Abdallah Sennawi, a member of the Committee to Defend Freedom of Expression and Thought, said private television channels would follow suit on Wednesday.
The constitution has taken centre stage in the country’s worst political crisis since Morsi’s election in June, squaring largely Islamist forces against liberal opposition groups.
In a pre-recorded interview broadcast on Thursday night, Morsi repeated that his new powers, in which he can make decisions beyond judicial review, will expire once the constitution is ratified.
“This is an exceptional stage; we are in a transitional phase,” Morsi told state television on Thursday. “This constitutional declaration is temporary, and it will end once the people have approved the constitution.”
Morsi’s decree last week had stripped the courts, which the president believes contain Hosni Mubarak-era appointees who are inimical to Islamists, of the power to dissolve the constituent assembly ahead of an expected verdict on Sunday.
The courts cannot also void the Islamist-dominated senate, which was under judicial review. A court had previously disbanded parliament, dominated by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, on technical grounds.
A senior member of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Islamists’ end game was to put the referendum to vote to grant Morsi’s decision democratic legitimacy.
The movement is confident of its vote gathering skills after decades of grass roots work unrivalled by any other movement in the country, and believes it could also win parliamentary elections scheduled after the constitutional referendum.