CAIRO — Leaders of the assembly drafting a new constitution said Wednesday that they would complete their work by the next morning, a move that appeared aimed at trying to defuse a political crisis that has gripped Egypt since the president issued an edict that put his decisions above judicial scrutiny.
If successful, the assembly could make moot the power struggle between President Mohammed Morsi and the courts because the president’s expanded powers were set to expire with the implementation of a new constitution.
But given the heated environment, it seemed just as likely that a draft constitution — one adopted over the objections of the opposition — would instead inflame an escalating political battle between Morsi and his critics. On Tuesday the opposition brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to denounce his attempt to assert a power above the courts and over the Islamist domination of the assembly drafting the national charter.
The dual battles raging with the courts and in the streets began six days ago with Morsi’s decree. But both his attempt to claim the new powers and the opposition backlash are fired by the deadline on Sunday of a court ruling that could short-circuit the writing of the constitution by breaking up the assembly. Courts have already dissolved an earlier assembly as well as the newly elected Parliament.
Morsi has said he issued the edict because he learned the Supreme Constitutional Court was poised on Sunday to strike down the current assembly, disrupting Egypt’s already chaotic transition.
The Constitutional Assembly’s announcement of its intent to wrap up the draft constitution by today could render the case irrelevant. The assembly’s charter might be sent to a referendum even if the court dissolved the chamber, unless the court nullifies the draft charter along with the assembly.