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Egypt parliament names constitution panel
Egypt parliament names constitution panel amid polarization between liberals, Islamists
By The Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) ' Egyptian parliamentarians are selecting on Saturday a 100-member panel that will draft the country's new constitution amid deep polarization between liberals and Islamists over the process.

The meeting is likely to be part of a weekslong struggle over the charter that will define Egypt's future identity. After the panel writes the constitution, it will be put to a vote in a national referendum.

The country's ruling military council, which took power after the mass uprising that toppled longtime Hosni Mubarak's rule last year, has suspended the old 1971 constitution. The council issued last year an interim constitution that gives elected members of the parliament's two houses the right to select those who will draft the new constitution.

However the ruling military council left the guidelines vague enough to spark a hot debate between liberals and Islamists on who should be included.

Egypt's Islamist groups, including both the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafis, between them make up nearly three-quarters of parliament after sweeping the vote in the first post-revolution elections in November.

They passed a vote last week to appoint 50 of the panel members from inside the parliament, while the rest come from outside.

Liberals, among whom are youth groups and secular parties that led the uprising but performed poorly in elections, say that a permanent constitution should not be written solely by the victors in a single elections.

They argue that the constitutional process should include a wide range of members from the country's different ideological trends. They say that parliament's decision to have its members dominate the process violates earlier Brotherhood pledges to draft the charter by "consensus" and fear it represents a capitulation to the Salafis.

Liberal judges and activists have filed legal challenges to the 50/50 panel makeup. Activists said they are planning protests outside the convention center where the parliament is meeting to select the panel.

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