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Will the rush to pass Egypt's constitution render it hollow? (+video)

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While imperfect or contested constitutions often become workable documents, "This is going to be seen by its opponents as born in such grievous sin that I cannot imagine any kind of legitimate political system arising out of it anytime soon," he says. "It may be a workable one … But it's one in which large portions of the political spectrum will feel politically excluded."

Delay for a stable democracy?

Hours after voting was scheduled to start, an Egyptian newspaper published what it claimed was a copy of the final draft to be voted on today, giving Egyptians the first chance to read what is likely to become their next constitution. The assembly finally began voting on the document in the afternoon, in a process that will take hours as the committee votes separately on each of the 234 articles.

Officials in the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing the Freedom and Justice Party, which Morsi headed before he ran for president, indicated that they made the surprise move of rushing the constitution through because they feared a counterattack by Egypt's judiciary. Such a move would possibly delegitimize the constitution drafting process, seek to strip Morsi of some of his power, and delay Egypt's transition to a stable democracy with a constitution and elected parliament in place. 

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court announced yesterday it would go ahead with a Dec. 2 hearing of a case that sought to disband the constituent assembly. This is the second iteration of the body; the first was dissolved by a court after secular and liberal members complained it was dominated by Islamists – one of the same complaints they have today. Egypt's top appeals court also joined lower courts in Egypt in a strike, giving a powerful boost to the judiciary's revolt against Morsi's decree sidestepping their authority. 

Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, says the FJP and Muslim Brotherhood leaders also believed that the a court was preparing to rule against another constitutional decree that President Morsi made in August that put legislative power, claimed by the military after the elected parliament was dissolved, in his own hands. An attempt to reverse that decree would bring the military back into a direct political role. Their decision indicates the president and his allies still fear the judiciary, despite Morsi's decree sidelining them.

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