Egyptian Islamists set to dominate panel that will write constitution
Choosing more than half the membership of the panel from the ranks of the two Islamist parties was made easier when liberal and secular parties declined to participate. The Muslim Brotherhood promises they won't write a constitution that will exclude anyone or force anyone to obey their brand of Islam.
But really, who believes that nonsense besides American liberals?
The panel was chosen at a meeting of the upper and lower chambers in parliament which is itself dominated by Freedom and Justice, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and by Nour, an ultraconservative Islamist party.
Last week parliament voted that half the members of the panel should come from within its ranks - a move which was criticised by secular groups who fear that the constitution will reflect Islamist preferences rather than the broad range of opinion in Egyptian society. Six women and six Christians are on the list, but more than two-thirds of the members represent Islamists, according to local media.
The constitution is intended to provide a blueprint for the political order after former President Hosni Mubarak was removed from power by a popular uprising 13 months ago.
It will decide contentious issues such as the relationship between Islam and the state and the role of the army in the post-Mubarak era. The charter will define the powers of the president and parliament and the rights of the Christian minority, which fears a rise in discrimination under Islamist rule.
Freedom and Justice has said it wants to reduce the powers of the president and increase those of parliament, while Nour, made up of ultraconservative Salafis, has made it clear in recent months that it entered politics because it feared the role of religion might be diluted in the constitution. It wants to push for a strict adherence to Islamic law.
A showdown is expected between the FJP and the military over the role of the president and the influence of the military under the new constitution. The military wants their budget exempt from parliamentary examination - largely because so much of it goes to current and retired officers who run defense industries and control other aspects of the Egyptian economy.
Expect the Brotherhood to compromise there. But when it comes to the role of Islam in the new Egypt, I suspect that the constitution will more reflect the views of Nour than any other group. Then, a slow strangulation of society will occur as sharia is gradually introduced into society.
In 10 years - as it is in Turkey - we will hardly recognize the Egypt that has developed.