Egypt's Assembly Votes on Constitution Draft as Crisis Deepens

Eighty-six out of the assembly's 100 members attend the voting; opposition: assembly aims at rushing a 'faulty' constitution.

Egypt's constituent assembly on Thursday voting on a final draft of a new constitution as a crisis set off by President Mohammed Morsi's decision to expand his powers and make the Islamist-controlled panel immune to judicial review deepened.

Morsi is to give a televised address later in the day, state media reported
Eighty-six out of the assembly's 100 members were attending the voting, which the opposition says aims at rushing a "faulty" constitution.

At the beginning of the session shown live on state television, 11 members who quit the panel claiming that the Islamists were imposing their final say on the draft were replaced by reserve candidates.

The assembly's head, Hossam al-Gharyani, said the vote would be carried out on each of the charter articles.

He added that only those objecting to any article had to raise their hands
"In case, the number of no-voters is big, a new vote will be held," said al-Gharyani without elaborating.

After approving the draft, the assembly was to forward it to Morsi, who will set a date for a public referendum on it.

Morsi, Egypt's first elected Islamist president, signed a constitutional declaration last week that exempted all his decisions and laws from judicial oversight, provoking an angry response from the judiciary and triggering sometimes violent protests
Opposition groups have accused Morsi of a despotic power grab. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group said the decision is temporary and designed to secure the revolt that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down almost two years ago.

The military, who ruled Egypt for 16 months after Mubarak's ouster, had suspended the country's constitution, which was issued in 1971.

The draft of the new constitution seeks to implement a 10 year ban on senior politicians from Mubarak's now-disbanded National Democratic Party competing in  local and parliamentary elections, reported the state-run newspaper, Al-Ahram online
Around 1,600-1,800 politicians are to be banned, added the report, quoting a senior official in the constituent assembly.

Calm was prevailing in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Thursday where protesters have been campaign for the seventh straight day.

They say they will remain in Tahrir until Morsi rescinds the decree. The opposition plans new mass protests on Friday.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most well-organized group, has said it will hold a pro-Morsi demonstration on Saturday in Tahrir, raising fears about possible clashes with opponents there.