London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The head of Egypt’s 50-member constitution-drafting panel, Amr Moussa, announced that the final draft of the constitution has been completed and voting is currently underway.
Moussa said that the final draft of the constitution includes 42 new articles, adding that all 50 committee members had agreed on the articles included in the final draft. A number of articles remain the subject of debate, including those relating to the military and Islamic Shari’a law.
The draft version of the constitution circulated in the Egyptian press on Friday included an article that stated that the choice of Defense Minister must be approved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for a period of eight years from the time that the constitution comes into effect. Many Egyptian politicians and human rights activists condemned the article, viewing it as granting Egypt’s military increased powers. The draft constitution currently being voted on also allows for military trials for civilians accused of “direct attacks” on the Egyptian armed forces.
Moussa told the press that the constitution-drafting committee had taken a total of 720 hours of deliberation to reach a final consensus draft.
He said: “We tried, through the constitution, to organize the life of the Egyptian people, not just for the coming period, but for the long-term. We have presented this for the 140 million Egyptians that the population of Egypt is expected to reach in 40 years.”
“We held 56 sessions of the 50-member committee totaling 274 hours, in addition to 306 hours in the subcommittees, meaning that it took a total of 720 hours” to draft the constitution, he added.
The political roadmap governing the transition of power in Egypt stipulates that a referendum on the constitution must be held by the end of the year; however, government officials have said that this is now expected to take place in the second half of January.
Its adoption will be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections due to take place by the middle of 2014.
The news comes as security forces dispersed people demonstrating against the new anti-protest law in central Cairo, just miles from where the 50-member committee is voting on the constitution.
Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din announced that he had opposed the controversial protest law, affirming that it restricts the right to demonstrate and was not adopted by an elected parliament.
“It is not a shame and it does not detract from the prestige of the state to reconsider a law that will only widen the gap between the state and the youth,” the deputy prime minister said on his official Facebook page.