Muslim Brotherhood Drafts up Egypt’s Constitution Overnight

CAIRO — Large groups of protesters streamed toward the central Tahrir Square on Friday as opponents of President Mohamed Morsi, galvanized and angered by his unexpected and hurried effort to pass Egypt’s new constitution, sought to marshal large numbers of demonstrators for the second time in a week.

The protesters, including leftists, liberals and staunch opponents of Mr. Morsi and his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, have grown into an increasingly assertive opposition bloc in recent days, since Mr. Morsi issued an edict granting himself powers above any court.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of the president’s opponents gathered in Tahrir Square here, denouncing Mr. Morsi as a new dictator and the Muslim Brotherhood as a secretive group, narrowly focused on its own survival.

“Egypt for all Egyptians!” protesters chanted on Friday.

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Mr. Morsi has said the edict is temporary and intended to protect a number of his efforts, including passing the constitution and replacing the general prosecutor, from interference by judges on the Constitutional Court appointed by deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

While some of those judges are seen as independent, others have made no secret of their disdain for Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood.

The president and his supporters have yet to provide any proof that meddling by the court was imminent.  Even so, on Thursday, the largely Islamist constituent assembly raced through the process of approving a draft constitution — filled, human rights groups and analysts said, with ambiguities and holes.

The result would fulfill some central demands of the revolution: the end of Egypt’s all-powerful presidency, a stronger Parliament and provisions against torture or detention without trial. But it would also give Egypt’s generals much of the power and privilege they had during the Mubarak era and would reject the demands of ultraconservative Salafis to impose puritanical moral codes.

Yet the contents of the document were perhaps less contentious than the context in which it was being adopted. Adding to the divisive atmosphere in Egypt, its passage was expected after almost all the delegates from secular parties and Coptic Christians walked out and protesters took to the streets.

Dismissing the discord, Mr. Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said in a televised interview on Thursday that he expected to call for an almost immediate referendum on the draft constitution to help bring Egypt’s chaotic political transition to a close — “a difficult birth from the womb of an ancient nation.”

“We are going to get out of this short bottleneck hugging each other,” he added.

But Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition leader and former United Nations diplomat, compared the proposed constitution to the charters that Egypt’s former authoritarian rulers passed in rigged plebiscites. “It will not survive,” he said.

The Coptic Church, whose members are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egyptians, directed its representatives on the assembly to boycott the vote. One representative said the constitution represented only the Islamists who had drafted it. “Not the constitution of Egypt,” the church negotiator, Kamel Saleh, told the state newspaper Al Ahram.

But several independent analysts said the hasty way in which it was prepared led to more problems than any ideological agenda. Instead of starting from scratch and drawing on the lessons of other countries, the deadline-conscious drafters tinkered with Egypt’s…



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