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Egypt elects second panel to draft constitution

The Egyptian parliament on Tuesday elected another panel of 100 delegates to write a new constitution for the country. Parliamentary speaker Saad al-Katatni stated that unlike the first panel, the newly elected 100-member panel represents all Egyptian groups [Reuters report]. However, the list of panel members faced some criticism for underrepresenting women, intellectuals and Christians who make up a tenth of Egypt's population. Moreover, the critics noted that the panel still comprises of too many Islamists, but all sides agree that the constitutional assembly should represent all segments of the country's population. The parliament had announced [JURIST report] last Thursday that it reached an agreement on the composition of the constitutional council after a controversy over the political balance threatened to halt drafting of a new constitution. The formation of the first panel was deemed unconstitutional [JURIST report] in April by the country's Supreme Administrative Court. The lawsuit was filed by a number of prominent Egyptian lawyers claiming that the formation of the panel itself was a violation of a 1994 Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court prohibiting members of parliament from electing themselves to certain positions.

The debate surrounding the composition of constitutional panel follows an Egyptian court ruling in February 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.

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