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Non-lawmakers to Make Up Half of Egyptian Constitutional Committee
March 19, 2012

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The committee tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution will have 50 members from the newly elected Parliament. The other 50 will come from outside the government.

Parliament itself made the announcement, adding that the non-lawmakers on the 100-member panel would be representatives of civil institutions or recognizable public figures. A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said that the party was pleased with the decision but urged caution against influence by the generals now ruling the country. 

Since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak as President, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been ruling the country, nullifying some laws that opposition leaders considered especially harmful but also issuing many more arrest warrants than expected from the tens of thousands of protesters who filled Cairo's Tahrir Square for weeks in February and March of 2011. The head of the council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, has even acted as temporary head of state in meeting with prominent officials from other governments.

The 50 parliamentary members of the committee will be appointed based on political representation in the current Parliament. The Freedom and Justice Party has the largest number of representatives, followed by the ultra-conservative Salafis. The two large Islamist parties share both similarities and differences, and observers expect strident discussions on such potentially contentious topics as the role of religion in government, the role of government in daily life, and the division of power between Parliament, the President, and the military.

The constitutional committee will aim to have a new constitution ready for ratification by Parliament in time for the newly elected President to take office. Elections take place May 23-24, with final results to be announced June 21. The military council has announced that it will formally hand over power once the new President is in office.
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