Egypt liberals quit assembly drafting constitution

Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:09pm EST
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By Tamim Elyan

CAIRO (Reuters) - A number of liberal politicians withdrew on Sunday from the Islamist-dominated assembly drafting Egypt's new constitution, saying they were not given the opportunity to discuss articles and their suggestions were being ignored.

The departure of at least 12 liberals from the 100 member assembly follows the resignation of five Christian delegates - as well eight out of 10 members of a advisory committee providing technical assistance - over similar complaints.

The constitution is a cornerstone in Egypt's democratic transition after the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year. Without it, the country cannot hold elections to replace a parliament that a court declared void in June.

But bickering between Islamists and liberals over subjects such as the role of Islam in politics, civic freedoms and women's rights has delayed voting on articles in the charter.

And analysts have expressed worries that if the constitution does not enjoy broad consensus it will be a short-lived one, especially as it will have to be put to a referendum.

Pressure is mounting on the assembly to finish before a December 12 deadline but members say they will continue on schedule.

"Passing the constitution in its current form is a loss to everyone, we can't be part of this constitution," former Arab League secretary general and assembly member Amr Moussa told reporters, adding that differences were on "basic" articles.

"We were deprived of discussing articles which is the main task of the assembly," the former presidential candidate added, criticizing the assembly's "rush" to finish.   Continued...