Mohammed Mursi

Egypt's Mursi hopes to overcome crisis with new constitution as protests continue

Assembly seeking to rush through draft constitution amid mass protests

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 4:14am


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An Egyptian panel was rushing through approval of a new constitution at the centre of a political crisis pitting the Islamist president against his opposition, which has threatened new protests.

By late afternoon, the constituent assembly, which has been boycotted by liberals and Christians, had approved almost one-fifth of 234 articles, including a unanimous decision to retain Islamic law as the main source of legislation.

"We want a constitution we agree on," said assembly chief Hossam al-Gheriani.

President Mohammed Mursi was expected later to call for national unity in a public address to ease the crisis prompted by a decree expanding his powers. The move set off a week of protests and threatens to derail early signs of economic recovery after two years of turmoil.

Two people have been killed and hundreds injured in country-wide protests.

The constitution is one of the main reasons Mursi and his Islamist backers are at loggerheads with opponents who are boycotting the 100-member constitutional assembly. They say the Islamists have hijacked it to impose their vision of the future.

The charter will replace the one suspended after president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in early 2011.

Once it has been approved by the panel, it will be sent to Mursi, who must call a referendum on it. One of the president's advisers and panel member Essam al-Erian said this might happen within two weeks.

It is a gamble based on the Islamists' belief that they can mobilise voters to win the referendum.

Setting the stage for more confrontation, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have called for pro-Mursi protests tomorrow in Tahrir Square, where a sit-in by the president's opponents entered a seventh day yesterday.

In an interview with Time, Mursi said the majority supported his decree. "I think you have seen the most recent opinion surveys. I think more than 80, around 90 per cent of the people in Egypt are - according to these opinion measures - they are with what I have done. It's not against the people, it's with the people," he said.

But he added: "If we had a constitution, then all of what I have said or done last week will stop."

Reuters, Agence France-Presse