Mohamed Salmawy, media spokesman of the 50-member committee responsible for writing Egypt's new constitution, told a press conference that the committee has decided to hold a closed meeting on Wednesday to discuss three thorny issues.
"We have almost reached consensus on the new constitution's articles, but some differences still plague the debate over the preamble of the new charter and whether there should be a quota of seats reserved for certain marginalised sectors of society in parliament, not to mention devising a new electoral system," said Salmawy.
Salmawy mentioned that the chairman of the committee, Amr Moussa, had to adjourn Tuesday's session for ten minutes to ask the Interior Minister to release a number of young political activists who were arrested for staging a demonstration against a new protest law in front of the Shura Council in the afternoon.
"The preamble of the new constitution was highly welcomed by members of the committee, but some asked that it should be the subject of a separate discussion," Salmawy said, hence the need for Wednesday's meeting.
"Although most members believe that the new constitution asserts Egypt is a civilian state, some want the word "civilian" mentioned in the preamble." Other members, he added, want "the preamble to give a definition of Islamic sharia."
According to Salmawy, the committee was asked to reach agreement on whether there should be positive discrimination in favour of some marginalised sectors of society in the form of a quota of seats in parliament.
"If this quota is agreed to by members, we will be forced to find a favourable electoral system, because the two issues are closely related," added Salmawy.
The spokesman said he cannot give an exact date for when the draft constitution will be put to a final vote among members of the 50-committee. "We are allowed until 3 December," he said.
"Some members think that if all articles have gained consensus during the first and second reading, there shouldn't be a final vote. If this happens, there will not be a televised meeting and the draft will be released to the media so citizens can read it," said Salmawy.
"If the final draft is passed to the president on 3 December, it must be put to a national referendum within 30 days in accordance with article 30 of the constitutional declaration, issued by interim president Adly Mansour on 8 July," he added, suggesting that this means a national referendum will be held before the end of the year.
Salmawy refuted reports there would be another vote on whether the upper house of the Shura Council is maintained or not. "Some proposed that at the end of its five-year legislative term, the coming parliament discusses whether Egypt needs another house," said Salmawy, arguing that, "it would be a big burden for the coming parliament to vet old legislations and pass new ones as required by the constitution."
Salmawy also indicated that the subcommittee in charge of reviewing the language of the articles has made some changes, but "the final word on these will be left to the committee in its plenary meetings."
Article 195, regulating the construction of churches, for example, was re-amended to read, "the state ensures that all citizens exercise religious rites and facilitates the construction of worship places for all followers of Arab and Islamic religions." This replaces previous phrasing that, "the house of representatives - in its first session after this constitution is passed - should issue a new law aimed at regulating the construction and restoration of churches to ensure that Christians exercise their rights freely."
The committee changed another law regulating the resettlement of Nubians.