Egypt's Muslim-led assembly votes for draft constitution based on Islamic law as Christians and liberals boycott meetingEgypt's Muslim dominated assembly hurriedly approved a draft constitution that will retain the principles of Islamic law as the main source of legislationLiberal, leftist and Christian assembly members had withdrawn in protestCritics fear the draft charter could lead to legislation being overseen by Islamic clericsDocument is expected to be put to a nationwide referendum within the next 30 days
15:55 GMT, 30 November 2012
Egypt's Muslim-led assembly has raced through approval of a new draft constitution without the participation of liberal and Christian members.
Critics fear the move, which saw the assembly vote unanimously to retain the principles of Islamic law as the main source of legislation, could lead to restrictions on women's rights and freedom of speech.
The draft charter is at the heart of the struggle between Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi and opposition parties that was sparked when the Muslim Brotherhood leader granted himself sweeping new powers last week.
Struggle: President Mohamed Morsi, seen flanked by bodyguards, sparked a crisis in Egypt when he granted himself sweeping new powers
The president's decision to put himself above the power of the courts triggered days of violent protests in Egypt.
Opposition activists had likened Morsi to a 'pharaoh' and refused to enter into dialogue with the leader.
The latest development in the ongoing power struggle saw the controversial draft charter approved after a marathon all-night assembly session.
The document, which is expected to be put to a nationwide referendum in the coming weeks, is being viewed as the 'Muslim Brotherhood constitution', according to an Al Jazeera report.
Many liberal, secularist and Coptic
Christian representatives have been boycotting assembly sessions in
recent months. Just four women participated in last night's vote, and not a single Christian member was present, the report said.
Human rights activists have warned that some elements of the document resemble a 'penal code'.
The new draft retains the principles of Islamic law as the basis of legislation, but adds an article stating that al-Azhar, Egypt's leading Islamic institution, must be consulted on matters related to Sharia.
It says the state will protect the 'true nature of the Egyptian family' and promote its 'morals and values'.
The document also states that a woman must balance her duties towards her family with those towards outside work, implying that a woman could be held accountable if her public role is deemed to be in conflict with her duty towards her family.
Tahrir Square: Thousands of demonstrators filled Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest against Morsi's assumption of broad new powers
The charter will replace the one suspended when President Hosni Mubarak's regime was overthrown in 2011.
The president has been locked in a stand-off with senior judges in Egypt since he issued an emergency decree last week which said his decisions could not be revoked by any authority – including the judiciary.
Morsi has insisted the decree was a temporary emergency measure, but opponents have described his assumption of new powers as 'dictatorial', and the high appeals court – known as the Court of Cassation – went on strike in protest.
Thousands of Egyptians also took to the streets in cities across the country as pressure mounted on the president to rescind his decrees.
Last night's marathon assembly session has further fuelled outrage Morsi, whose actions have led pro-democracy activists to claim he is acting too much like Hosni Mubarak, the authoritarian leader he replaced.