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Deadline already looms on Egypt’s military-launched reform panel

ICC Note:

An eight-member panel has been assembled to help provide a roadmap for transition to elections in Egypt, World Magazine reports. Included on the panel is a Coptic Christian judge. Yet, Coptic leaders have protested the exclusion of other Christians from the panel.

By Mindy Belz

2/16/2011 Egypt (World Magazine) – An eight-member panel of jurists and scholars has launched a fast-track review of Egypt’s constitution—even as the composition of the panel remains a point of controversy since it was announced on Monday. The panel is expected to help provide a roadmap for transition to both parliamentary and presidential elections in the wake of three weeks of street revolt that prompted a military takeover last Friday.

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces, currently Egypt’s ruling authority since Hosni Mubarak vacated the presidency on Friday, charged the constitutional panel with amending “all articles as it sees fit to guarantee democracy and the integrity of presidential and parliamentary elections.” It told the panel it had to finish its work “in a period of no longer than 10 days” from its first meeting, or before Feb. 25.

The panel includes three serving judges from the Supreme Constitutional Court. One of them, Sami Yusef, is a Coptic Christian. Another panel member is Sobhi Saleh, an attorney and former member of parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Coptic leaders protested the exclusion of other Christians from the panel, as did an array of Egyptian journalists and commentators, saying that Yusef was included only in his judicial capacity, while the Muslim Brotherhood’s Saleh was a political and religious representative. “The inclusion of elements from the Muslim Brotherhood without any Copt negates the principles of the Jan. 25 revolution, in which Coptic and Muslim blood intermingled,” said Nagib Gibrail, a Coptic lawyer who heads the Egyptian Union for Human Rights.

But there are no overnight fixes. The problems in the democratization of Egypt are deep, warns Stratfor CEO George Friedman: “First, Mubarak’s repression had wrecked civil society. The formation of coherent political parties able to find and run candidates will take a while. Second, the military is deeply enmeshed in running the country. Backing them out of that position, with the best will in the world, will require time. The military bought time Feb. 13, but it is not clear that six months is enough time, and it is not clear that, in the end, the military will want to leave the position it has held for more than half a century.” (For more, see Stratfor’s “Egypt: The Distance Between Enthusiasm and Reality.”)

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