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Islamists in Egypt rush vote on charter

CAIRO — Islamists rushed to approve a draft constitution for Egypt on Thursday without the participation of liberal and Christian members, aiming to preempt a court ruling that could dissolve their panel and further inflaming the clash between the opposition and President Mohammed Morsi.

The draft of the charter, meant to determine a new political identity for Egypt after 60 years of rule by authoritarian leaders, has an Islamist bent that rights specialists say could lead to a say by Muslim clerics in legislation and restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights, and other liberties.

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The lack of inclusion was obvious in Thursday’s session of the assembly that has been writing the document for months. Of the 85 members in attendance, there was not a single Christian and only four women, all Islamists. For weeks, liberal, secular, and Christian members, already a minority on the 100-member panel, have been pulling out to protest what they call the Islamists’ hijacking of the process.

Voting had not been expected for another two months. But the assembly, overwhelmingly made up of Morsi’s allies, abruptly moved it up in order to pass the draft before Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court rules on Sunday on whether to dissolve the panel.

Morsi is expected to call for a referendum on the draft as early as mid-December.

‘‘I am saddened to see this come out while Egypt is so divided,’’ said Egypt’s top reform leader, Nobel laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, speaking on private Al-Nahar TV. But he predicted the document would not last long. ‘‘It will be part of political folklore and will go to the garbage bin of history.’’

A new opposition bloc led by ElBaradei and other liberals said the assembly had lost its legitimacy.

Thursday’s vote also escalates an already bruising confrontation sparked last week when Morsi gave himself near absolute powers that neutralized the judiciary.

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