30 Nov 2012

Assembly voting on new constitution in Egypt

6:04 am on 30 November 2012

The assembly writing a new constitution in Egypt has convened to vote on the final draft.

In one of its first steps, the constituent assembly voted to keep sharia, or Islamic law, as the main source of legislation.

The constitutional court is to rule on Sunday on whether to dissolve the assembly.

The judiciary is in a stand-off with President Mohammed Morsi after he granted himself sweeping new powers last Thursday. The decree has sparked protests across the country.

The assembly is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other backers of President Mohammed Mursi. It is being boycotted by other members.

According to state TV, the articles so far passed stipulate the Islam is the religion of the state, and the principles of sharia are the "main source of legislation".

This is unchanged from the previous constitution under President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled as president last year.

The assembly also adopted a new article that al-Azhar mosque and university, authorities on Sunni Muslim jurisprudence, must be consulted on "matters related to the Islamic sharia".

"May God bless us on this day," assembly speaker Hossam el-Gheriyani said at the start of Thursday's session.

The BBC reports the assembly will vote on each of 234 articles in the draft constitution. It will then be sent to Mr Mursi for approval. After that, he must put it to a referendum.

The Mena news agency said on Thursday it had obtained details of the draft constitution. Mena said it included a clause on press freedom, and stated that only courts could suspend or close newspapers.