Draft Egyptian constitution submitted to interim president

Photo: Draft Egyptian constitution submitted to interim president / Arabic region

Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour was Tuesday handed a new draft constitution that strengthens the country's powerful military and reverses religious provisions inserted in the 2012 charter, dpa reported.

The draft, approved on Sunday by a 50-member commission, is due to be put to a referendum within 30 days, under a constitutional declaration issued by Mansour in July.

It is the first major step in Egypt's political roadmap as laid out by the military when it ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

The referendum comes a year after the public approved a constitution that was drafted by an Islamist-dominated panel and suspended after Morsi was deposed.

The draft gives the military a veto on the appointment of the defence minister for a transitional period of eight years. The panel also resisted pressure from activists and some members to ban the trial of civilians in military courts.

The new charter preserves the long-standing statement that "the principles of the Islamic sharia [Islamic law] are the main source of legislation."

But a provision, inserted by the Islamist drafters of the 2012 constitution, interpreting the phrase "the principles of Islamic sharia" is gone, as is a clause providing for Islamic scholars to advise on sharia issues.

The head of the commission, Amr Moussa, called for a "yes" vote.

"The people are sovereign, there is nothing else to be said," he told a reporter who asked what would happen if there was a "no" vote.

"There would be another committee ... but this period does not call for anything like that," Moussa said. "We ask all citizens to participate ... and we also ask them to vote yes."

Prime Minister Hazem Beblawy has suggested that the referendum would be held in January.

It is due to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.

The draft leaves it to Mansour to decide which of those will be held first, and what electoral system will be used for the parliament. The panel was unable to agree on a voting system, as political party representatives called for a list system.

Others demanded that most or all deputies should be elected in single-member constituencies, as was the case prior to the 2011 revolution against long-time ruler Hosny Mubarak.

The 2012 constitution was pushed through by an Islamist-dominated panel formed by the parliament, in which the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the hardline Salafist Nour Party held the lion's share of seats. It was approved by 10.6 million voters.

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