Compromise Reached on Writing Egypt’s Constitution

Islamists and secularists agree to form a panel to rewrite Egypt’s constitution.

Egyptian Islamist and secularist politicians agreed to a fifty-fifty split on a panel that is tasked with writing a new constitution. The deal came after the army issued a 48 hour ultimatum on Wednesday.

The generals threatened that if lawmakers failed to reach a compromise, they would issue their own constitutional declaration or revert back to the 1971 law which was suspended in the wake of President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation early last year.

The political compromise ends months of deadlock and is sees as a victory for secularists just a week before the runoff in Egypt’s presidential election is due to take place. That election pits a candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, against former minister Ahmed Shafik, a military man who is favored by liberal Egyptians and religious minorities.

The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest party in parliament, wanted to delay assembling the constitutional panel until after the election, which it hopes to win, so it could eradicate the vestiges of the old regime which persecuted it as a sect for decades of military rule.

The army, which has ruled Egypt on an interim basis since Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising, insists that a new constitution should be in place before it hands power to the elected president next month. It hopes that its control of national-security policy and vested economic interests will be enshrined in the highest law.

An earlier attempt to form a constitutional panel failed because the Brotherhood stacked it with its own members. Christians, women and other minorities were highly underrepresented. This sparked fears among moderate Muslim and liberal Egyptians of an Islamist takeover.

Those fears were only aggravated when the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate was among the two who made it into the second round of the election.