CAIRO – Egypt’s military rulers said Wednesday the next parliament will not be representative enough to independently oversee the drafting of a constitution, and they will appoint a council to check the influence of religious extremists on the process.
The announcement followed a strong showing by Islamist groups who took the overwhelming majority in the first round of parliamentary elections. The outcome caused concern among the liberals who drove Egypt’s uprising and the military, which took power from ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
“We are in the early stages of democracy,” said Gen. Mukhtar Mulla, a member of the ruling military council. “The parliament is not representing all sectors of society.”
In theory, the new parliament will be entrusted with forming a 100-member constituent assembly to write the new constitution. But Mulla said the new council will coordinate with parliament and the Cabinet to ensure the assembly is representative of all religions, professions, and political parties.
The new constitution will determine the nature of Egypt’s post-Mubarak political system. Liberal groups and the military – a secular institution that has traditionally controlled access of Islamists to its ranks – are concerned that religious extremists will exert too much influence and could try to enshrine strict Islamic law, or Shariah, as the only guiding principle for state policies.