Nader Bakkar (Photo: Al-Ahram)
The Salafist Nour Party has expressed its overall contentment with the draft constitution, curtailing speculations concerning the party’s position.
“The Nour Party has approved 70 per cent of the draft constitution,” affirmed spokesman Nadar Bakkar to Ahram Online, emphasising his party’s general conviction with regards to the draft.
Concerning the draft’s adherence to sharia (Islamic law), the principal point of concern for the Nour Party and Salafist ideologues, the spokesman confirmed that the final draft does in fact follow the sharia.
“Article 221 in the draft constitution dictates the application of sharia,” he said.
The Nour Party’s evident satisfaction with Article 221 lies in its conservative definition of sharia, which strictly adheres to the Sunni interpretation of Islamic law.
Article 221 of the proposed constitutional draft states that the term "principles of Islamic sharia," mentioned in Article 2 of the constitution as the main source of legislation essentially means the sources of Islamic jurisprudence used by Sunni Islam and its four main schools.
Previously, the Constitutional Court had interpreted the term "principles" to mean the religious rules that were clearly established by religious texts, and are of absolutely certain proof and meaning. In practice this referred to only a handful of rules, as opposed to the newly proposed article which allows for a wider application of Islamic jurisprudence.
Nevertheless, Bakkar stressed that it is not obligatory for all party members to share the same opinion concerning the draft, as varying opinions will always exist.
The party’s main issue of contention with the draft, according to Bakkar, is the presidential powers, which he claims have been augmented.
“The new draft gives the president increased powers,” said the young Salafist spokesman; further suggesting that the document awards Morsi the upper hand concerning the legislative parliament.
Despite rumours of Nour’s participation in a protest to object suggested modifications to the presidential powers, the party denies any involvement. According to Bakkar, a small Salafist group on Facebook had independently organised a protest related to the topic.
Current debates on the draft constitution may prove irrelevant pending the final verdict regarding the constitutionality of Egypt's constitution-drafting body. Cairo’s Administrative Court was expected to give the final verdict on 23 October; however it unexpectedly decided to refer the case to the High Constitutional Court. An investigation by the court will commence within 45 days, leaving continued uncertainty concerning the status of the constitution-drafting body.
Despite numerous cases against the constitutionality of the Constituent Assembly and the membership selection procedure, it has been working diligently to produce a final draft before the court declares its dissolution.
Upon the approval by the Assembly of the final draft, the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration allows one month before it is put to public vote. Legal experts affirm that once the public vote for the new charter no court can appeal the decision.
According to President Morsi's decree in August 2012, should the current panel be unable to complete the task the president will select a new representative body to draft a new national charter within three months.