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Cairo hurries on constitution

Morsi wants it approved before judiciary can act

– Islamists on Thursday rushed to approve a draft constitution for Egypt without the participation of liberal and Christian members, aiming to pre-empt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel and further inflaming the clash between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi.

The draft of the charter, meant to determine a new political identity for Egypt after 60 years of rule by authoritarian leaders, has an Islamist bent that rights experts say could lead to a say by Muslim clerics in legislation and restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights and other liberties.

Voting had not been expected for another two months. But the assembly, overwhelmingly made up of Morsi’s allies, abruptly moved it up in order to pass the draft before Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court rules Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel.

Morsi is expected to call for a referendum on the draft as early as mid-December.

“I am saddened to see this come out while Egypt is so divided,” Egypt’s top reform leader, Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei said. But he predicted the document would not last long.

“It will be part of political folklore and will go to the garbage bin of history.”

Thursday’s vote escalates an already bruising confrontation sparked last week when Morsi gave himself near absolute powers that neutralized the judiciary, the last branch of the state not in his hands.

Islamist members of the panel defended the fast tracking. Hussein Ibrahim of the Brotherhood said the draft reflected thousands of hours of debate, including input from liberals before they withdrew.

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