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Egypt's PM promises new constitution by next month

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil reveals September deadline for Egypt's new constitution.

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An Egyptian woman casts her vote at a polling station on June 16, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptians went to the polls after Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled that the Islamist-led Parliament must be immediately dissolved. Some are calling these actions a "soft coup". (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Egypt's new Prime Minister, Hisham Kandil, has promised the nation a new constitution by the end of September, Ahram Online cited state media as saying

However, the prime minister, whose political powers are as of yet unclear, is not a formal representative of the constitution-drafting group known as the constituent assembly, said Ahram Online.

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The drafting of Egypt's new constitution -- the first since 1971 -- has become a political quagmire due to months-long arguments over assembly membership and the recent dissolution of parliament

The constituent assembly itself could be dissolved by a court decision next month, in which case President Morsi would appoint new members, according to Ahram Online. The group has not announced its own expected release date for the document. 

That didn't stop Kandil from doing so, adding that it will be ready to go before a popular referendum soon, reported China Radio International -- words the nation will probably expect him to live up to or face protests like those seen against President Morsi on Friday.

But it remains to be seen if the draft presented to the authorities will remain unchanged before going to a popular vote, given what happened to the country's last constitution, warned historian Khaled Fahmy, writing in the Cairo Review

"... the constituent assembly that drafted the 1971 Constitution was stunned to see that the text they had presented to President Anwar Sadat after months of careful preparation had little connection to the one that was eventually presented to the people to vote on in a national referendum. Sadat, victorious from his power struggle against Nasser’s men, had managed to alter the draft, and the final text reflected the expansive presidential powers that he’d won from his enemies—powers he wanted enshrined in the constitution."

President Morsi's political powers were severely restricted by amendments issued by the then-ruling military in the wake of the nation's June presidential vote. 

In the meantime, debate over the nature of the country's new constitution continues. Fahmy lists some critical questions

"Should it be a document that merely reflects society as it is? Or should it strive to draw a picture of society as it should be? Should our constitution refer to the values, common beliefs, history, and past struggles of the Egyptian people? Or should it, rather, aspire to a society that we still do not have, to dreams we cherish, to values that we need to inculcate, and to hopes we want to achieve?"

Egypt's former longtime President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by popular protest in February 2011.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/120825/egypts-pm-promises-new-constitution-next-month