The Egyptian parliament met on Saturday to appoint the 100-member panel that will draft the country's new constitution. A significant struggle is expected between the Islamists and liberals to reduce over 1,000 nominations [Al Jazeera report] to 100 individuals to serve on the panel. Half the panel members will be current members of the parliament and half will be other prominent Egyptian social figures. At least 40 of the 50 seats reserved for members of parliament are expected to come from Islamist parties. The domination of the proceedings by Islamists has been extremely controversial. The leader of the liberal Justice Party walked out of Saturday's session after his proposal was rejected and there have been intense debates [JURIST report] among the parties over the composition of the constitutional panel.
The debate follows an Egyptian court ruling last month that the elaborate voting system in the parliamentary elections was unconstitutional [JURIST report]. The make-up of the constitutional panel could determine whether there will be an expansion of rights in the country. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on Egypt's newly elected parliament to pursue an agenda to reform nine areas of Egyptian law [JURIST report] that impede freedom and restrict rights. Some of the suggested reforms included ending the state of emergency, reforming police law and expanding freedom of expression, strengthening the criminal penalties for police abuse, amending Egypt's definition of torture to be in line with international standards and allowing independent NGOs to operate lawfully in the country.