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Work Begins On New Egypt Constitution

  • RFE/RL

Interim President Adli Mansour (right) and interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, at el-Beblawi's swearing-in on July 16.

Interim President Adli Mansour (right) and interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, at el-Beblawi's swearing-in on July 16.

A committee of 10 Egyptian legal and constitutional experts has met to start work on amending the country's constitution, which was suspended following the military overthrow of President Muhammad Morsi in early July.

The committee, appointed by interim President Adli Mansour, comprises four university professors and six judges.

It convened in the parliament building in Cairo.

It will have 30 days to write amendments, which will then be presented to a 50-person body meant to represent the different groups of Egyptian society.

Under the plan, that body will have 60 days to deliver a final draft, which will then be voted on in a national referendum.

The previous constitution was approved in a referendum in December 2012 with a majority of 64 percent. But voter turnout was just 33 percent, leading critics of the document to claim it was illegitimate.

The drafting of that constitution was marked by criticisms from pro-reform and liberal activists that the Muslim Brotherhood, the main backer of Morsi, dominated the process and failed to include their views.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi on July 20 called for an end of the sometimes violent divisions that have ruptured the nation, and said security must be restored.

He likened the situation in Egypt to a "war," with the country beset with political, security and economic problems.

"We are in a stage similar to war," he said in an interview with state-run television. "Not a war in which someone is going to attack me so I must defend myself. No, a war to stop the bloodshed that is taking place in the country, to restore economic activity, to restore security to the streets."

Beblawi said security had to be restored in order for the economy to begin functioning again.

Since the early 2011 ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian economy has fallen precipitously, with a sharp drop in tourism and foreign business investment.

In recent weeks, frequent clashes between security forces and pro-Morsi protesters have led to dozens of deaths and injuries.

The Muslim Brotherhood has rejected negotiating with or participating in the interim government, instead continuing to demand that Morsi be reinstated.

The military authorities have been carrying out a crackdown against the Brotherhood and its leaders. But the moves have so far failed to halt daily protests in Cairo by the group’s supporters.

Beblawi acknowledged the country is riven by disagreements but appealed for a return to national "harmony," saying this is needed if the country is to emerge from the current turmoil.

"The country is divided and we cannot continue with these divisions," he said. "The first goal for any government in a situation like this is a return to harmony. Differences are inevitable, differences on many things. But the conflict, the killing, that we see in the streets, accusing others of treason -- this cannot continue."

In a sign of regional backing for the interim government, Jordan's King Abdullah made an unannounced visit to Cairo on July 20. It was the first visit by an Arab leader since Morsi was toppled.


Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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