Egyptian lawmakers reached an agreement on the composition of the constitutional council on Thursday after a controversy over the political balance threatened to halt drafting of a new constitution. Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court in April effectively suspended [JURIST report] the work of the 100-member panel responsible for drafting the country's new constitution after ruling in favor of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the formation of the panel. The new agreement is a compromise of competing political parties for membership on the council. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [NYT backgrounder] has indicated that the country will revert back to the 1971 constitution [UPI report] if the panel does not resume.
The composition of the constitutional panel has been intensely debated, and the domination of the proceedings by Islamists [JURIST reports] has been extremely controversial. 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.