Cairo: An Islamist-dominated panel tasked to write a new constitution for Egypt began voting on Thursday on the document`s final draft, a move likely to stoke a widening political crisis over decrees giving the nation`s Islamist president near absolute powers.
Fast tracking the process is aimed at pre-empting a possible ruling on Sunday by the Supreme Constitutional Court to dissolve the constitutional assembly. The court will also rule on the legitimacy of parliament`s upper chamber, also dominated by Islamists. The lower chamber, the lawmaking People`s Assembly, was dissolved by the same court in June.
Liberal members of the panel have withdrawn to protest what they say is the hijacking of the process by Islamists loyal to Mursi. The panel`s president, Hossam al-Ghiryani, began today`s session by ordering a vote by a show of hands to dismiss 11 members he said exceeded the number of sessions they are allowed to miss without risking dismissal.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of their dismissal and substitute members stepped in to fill their place.
The 11, who included former foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa, liberal politician Waheed Abdel-Maguid and two Christians, are among as many as 30 members who have pulled out in protest over recent weeks.
The assembly then began voting on each article of the draft document.
Dissolving the panel and replacing it with a more inclusive body is a key demand by the liberal-led opposition. It also calls for rescinding the president`s decrees that placed him above oversight of any kind, including by the courts, and shielded the panel and the upper chamber, known as the Shura Council, from the courts.
At least 100,000 people gathered at Cairo`s Tahrir square on Tuesday to denounce Mursi`s decrees. Opponents of the president are planning another rally tomorrow. Islamist will stage one of their own on Saturday.
The rallies and the rushing of the vote on the final draft of the constitution are fuelling tension in the country nearly two years after the ouster of authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak. Mursi says the decrees were necessary to protect the revolution and the country`s transition to democratic rule. The opposition says they are dictatorial.
Mursi became the country`s first ever freely elected president when he narrowly won a June vote against Mubarak`s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq. His critics say he and his Muslim Brotherhood are too preoccupied with tightening their grip on power to effectively deal with some of the country`s many pressing problems.