In press statement Wednesday, Amr Moussa, chairman of the 50-member committee mandated with finalising Egypt's new constitution, disclosed that the final draft of the country's post-30 June charter will be complete by the end of November.
"After this, we will pass it to Interim President Adly Mansour to be put to a national referendum," Moussa said.
In the words of Moussa, "The new constitution will be modern, reflecting the requirements of the 21st century, not to mention that it will be completely different from the 2012 Constitution."
"This constitution will be new," Moussa added, "in the sense that it will be aimed to serve the interests of all Egyptians, rather than the 2012 Constitution that was tailored to serve the interests of the [deposed] Muslim Brotherhood."
According to Moussa, the current debate over the constitution has highlighted many differences, particularly over articles regulating the performance of the armed forces. "In this respect," said Moussa, "let me emphasise that we are by no means under any pressure from the army to draft articles in a certain way." "Let me also stress that we show a lot of respect for army officials and their viewpoints," said Moussa.
Moussa indicated that there is also a lot of controversy over whether women would be given a quota of 30 per cent of seats in the coming parliament and whether the traditional quota of 50 per cent of seats reserved for farmers and workers will be maintained.
Moussa confirmed that the vast majority of the 50-member committee are in favour of imposing an outright ban on political parties formed on a religious foundation or background. "The majority is against forming religious parties, be they Islamist or Christian," Moussa said.
Reviewing the progress of the 50-member committee in a plenary session Wednesday, Abdel-Gelil Mostafa, chairman of a subcommittee responsible for reviewing the language of the constitution's articles, disclosed that 150 articles have been reviewed, 30 of which are new.
"Most of these articles belong to the first two chapters covering the state, and rights and freedoms," said Mostafa, indicating that "the articles of the chapter on the system of government will be complete Thursday."
At the end of that stage, explained Mostafa, "We will have an initial draft constitution before the holiday of Eid Al-Adha next week, after which we will move to the second stage, which is designed to include a dialogue with members of subcommittees to reach an agreement on articles after they were reviewed by the constitution writing committee."
"Finally, we will a have a third final stage in which there will be a final draft ready for discussion in plenary sessions of the Committee of the 50."
Sameh Ashour, chairman of the National Dialogue Subcommitee, said "as many as 32 hearing sessions held with different sectors of society showed wide rejection for keeping the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, in place."
"But," retorted Ashour, "if there will be a new upper house designed to give a voice for some politically marginalised sectors, such as women and Copts, this will be a good step."
Joining forces with Ashour, Moussa argued that, "The two main objectives of creating an upper house under the name of the Senate are to accommodate the politically marginalised sectors and improve the quality of the process of legislation in Egypt."
Ashour surprised the committee by proposing that a judicial court be formed to take charge of putting politically corrupt officials on trial. "If convicted, they could face political disenfranchisement for some years," said Ashour.
Mervat Al-Tallawy, deputy chair of the State and Foundational Principles Subcommittee, stressed that "there is still a lack of agreement on what is called the identity articles" — the constitution's first four articles dealing Islamic Sharia, the religious rights of non-Muslims, and the powers of the Sunni Islam institution of Al-Azhar.
The ultraconservative Salafist El-Nour Party has strong reservations over these articles, including rejecting any amending of Article 1 to describe Egypt as "a civil state."
Al-Tallway said the subcommittee introduced 18 new articles aiming to underline Egypt's commitment to implementing international conventions on rights and freedoms.
Al-Tallawy also indicated that new articles were added on protecting the Nile River waters, developing Suez Canal, and on equality between women and men.
Hoda Al-Sadda, chairwoman of the Rights and Liberties Subcommittee, stated that members have already finished their task. "We also drafted new articles, on top of which are imposing a ban on forced evacuation of certain sectors of citizens, so that people like Nubians or in Sinai would not suffer from this growing phenomenon," Al-Sadda said.
In reviewing the constitution's longest chapter, Amr El-shobaki, chairman of the System of Government Subcommittee, indicated that "most of the articles under this chapter (108 in total) will be sent to the constitution writing committee Thursday to be reviewed in terms of language.
El-shobaki said: "There are serious differences over articles regulating the performance of the army, the judicial authority, the electoral system, and whether a 50 per cent quota of seats allocated to workers and farmers in parliament should be maintained."
El-shobaki recommended that serious debates be held over the future political system of Egypt.
"We should have a coherent political system, with powers in balance between the president and parliament," he said.