Younes Makhioun, head of the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, condemned on Thursday the decision by Egypt's constitutional committee to ban the formation of political parties on a religious basis, Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.
Earlier on Thursday, the 50-member committee tasked with amending the 2012 Islamist-backed constitution announced on Twitter that article 54 of the charter would ban parties founded on a religious basis.
The decision mainly affects the Islamist parties that emerged after the January 2011 popular uprising that ousted long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Those parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour Party, won sweeping victories in the country's 2011 legislative elections. Former president Mohamed Morsi, ousted in July, himself hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Describing the ban as "exclusionary," Makhioun said it was reminiscent of Mubarak's "fascist dictatorial regime" that prevailed before the 2011 uprising.
"Why do we ban the formation of parties on a religious basis, despite the fact that there are parties who have a socialist, secular or Nasserist background?" Makhioun asked. "Could an article in the constitution that bans parties on those grounds be allowed?"
Makhioun underlined the difficulty of differentiating between a religious and a non-religious party, suggesting that the ban was open to various judicial interpretations that could change with the judge's mood.
The article could also be used by the authorities against parties it wanted to dissolve, Makhioun argued.
Makhioun called for a return to the 2012 constitution's text on this matter, which banned parties built on religious, sexual, or racial discrimination.
While the 2012 constitution was drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly, the current constitutional committee includes only one Islamist representative, hailing from the Nour Party.
Other Islamist parties, who do not acknowledge the legitimacy of Morsi's ouster, have refused to participate in the committee, calling instead for the former president's reinstatement.