An Egyptian court suspended on Tuesday the Islamist-dominated commission tasked with drafting a new constitution, amid a boycott by liberals, moderate Muslims and the Coptic church. The injunction could delay the introduction of a constitution needed urgently to clarify the powers that will be held by the Egyptian president. Elections for the post of president are scheduled for 23-34 May, after which the president is due to take over from the army council that has run Egypt since the fall of Mubarak.
The administrative court in Cairo said it was “suspending the constituent assembly” without explaining the reasons, but lawyers and liberal political parties had filed a complaint accusing the Islamist-majority parliament, which formed the panel, of having abused its powers. The decision comes amid a tense stand-off between Islamist and secular forces just six weeks ahead of the presidential elections.
The 100-member panel, which is evenly divided between parliamentarians and public figures, was elected by the parliament. But most of its members are from the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist fundamentalist parties, who hold the majority in both houses of parliament.
The court’s decision is a challenge to the political power of the Islamists, and indicates domestic opposition to Muslim Brotherhood control of all political outlets. The assumption that the victory of Islamists in parliamentary elections would allow them to form the new constitution and determine the character of the state, has come under fire from other sectors in Egypt over the last few days. An intense political struggle over the drafting of the constitution is expected to ensue.