CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s Islamists make up a sizable majority of a 100-member panel tasked with drafting a new constitution, according to a list of names published Sunday by the country’s official news agency.
The list reinforces fears by secular and liberal Egyptians that the Islamists dominating parliament will pack the panel with supporters and ignore minority concerns.
Of the 50 lawmakers selected by parliament’s two chambers to sit on the panel, 37 are Islamists. The other 50, also selected by lawmakers, are public figures who include enough Islamists to give them a comfortable overall majority in the panel.
A handful of Christians and women were selected and there were only a few names from the revolutionary movement behind last year’s ouster of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
The new constitution will determine the balance of power between Egypt’s previously all-powerful president and parliament, and define the country’s future identity, including the role of religion and minority rights.
With so much at stake, the question of who should sit on the panel has sparked fierce debate in Egypt. Liberal lawmakers say a permanent constitution should not be written only by those who won a majority in a single election.
Some Islamists had previously indicated that they would seek to write the constitution by “consensus,” but doubts among secular and liberal Egyptians increased last week after parliament’s two chambers jointly decided to allocate half of the panel’s seats to its own members, three-quarters of whom are Islamist.
Half of those are from the Muslim Brotherhood, who have until now been vague about what they want the constitution to include. But another quarter of parliament are Salafi ultraconservatives, many of whom have called for the constitution to reflect hardline interpretations of Islamic Sharia law.
The country’s most prominent democracy advocate, Mohamed ElBaradei, was not included in the panel, a glaring omission of a figure whose vocal opposition to Mubarak’s regime in the year prior to its overthrow injected energy into the youth groups that eventually engineered last year’s uprising.
They perceive the omission of ElBaradei and the failure to give the revolutionaries more than a token representation on the panel as the latest move by the Islamists and the ruling generals who took over from Mubarak to further sideline them following their poor showing in parliamentary elections swept by the better-organized Islamists.