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Egypt’s rulers try to curb anger over guidelines for constitution

November 15, 2011 | 11:32 am

Protesters in Tahrir Square in October
REPORTING FROM CAIRO — Deputy Prime Minister Ali Selmi held talks with representatives of Egypt’s Democratic Coalition on Tuesday in an attempt to contain anger over proposals that would give the military increased power over the country's soon-to-be elected Parliament.

The proposals on the drafting of a new constitution have caused a nationwide uproar. They include articles that would guarantee the secrecy of the military’s budget and grant the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces the right to choose 80% of the constitutional committee's members, as well as the right to veto any articles before the document goes to a national referendum. 

The proposals would allow the military to become "guardian" of the constitution, fueling fears that the military council, which has ruled the country since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February, is plotting to have a bigger political role.

The articles have infuriated liberals and Islamists alike and have increased tensions leading up to the first round of parliamentary elections, which begin Nov. 28. 

The Democratic Coalition, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, has threatened a million-man march in Tahrir Square on Friday if the principles aren't amended or abolished by Wednesday.

Islamists are against any obligatory principles to guide the writing of the constitution. They are expected to win big in the elections and see any guidelines as an infringement on the majority's power to draft the document.

Liberals, fearing that Islamists would tilt the constitution too much toward Sharia law, favor some guiding principles but not if they give the military more power.

Selmi is expected to announce amendments to the articles after meeting with military-backed Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.     


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Photo: Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square last month chant slogans against Egypt's military rulers. Credit: Mohamed Abd El-Ghany / Reuters