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Egypt's liberals walk out, leaving Islamists to write a constitution

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And by deepening the Islamist-secular rift in Egyptian politics, he adds, that sort of outcome would damage Parliament's ability to limit the military's political role. "It's potentially a really damaging problem," he says.

To be enduring, critics say, the constitution must be a document based on national consensus, not on who won an election – especially not a vote held in the tumultuous months following a revolution.

"It's not the same as a majority in parliament passing and drafting a law," says Mr. Hanna. "It's supposed to represent something broader.... something more than this particular moment."

Islamists won about 70 percent of the seats in Egypt's first parliamentary election since the uprising, as the 80-year-old Brotherhood capitalized on its deep roots and organization and newer liberal parties struggled to gain recognition.

The Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, says that FJP and Nour members of parliament make up only 30 percent of the assembly, and FJP member Essam El Erian says the assembly is representative of the Egyptian population. Even with an additional 30 percent of assembly members whom liberals point out are close to the Brotherhood or come from Islamist backgrounds, that still represents a smaller Islamist bloc in the assembly than in parliament.

The FJP, the most powerful party in parliament, had promised an inclusive process based on consensus. But liberal parties say the group pushed its candidates through without discussion or deliberation.

Nour and FJP leaders deny the constituent assembly was rushed, and say they gave plenty of time for discussion. Some observers say the liberal walkout is a symptom of a sore loser mentality.

Six women, six Christians

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