Courts defer ruling on Egypt’s constitutional assembly

A Cairo court deferred a ruling on the legitimacy of Egypt’s constitutional assembly until 24 September, extending the ongoing legal row that has overshadowed the country's transition to democracy since the recent election of President Mohammed Mursi. 

The move is seen as something of a short-term victory for Mursi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been worried that the assembly – currently drafting the country’s new constitution – faced being dissolved. The adjournment could allow the 100-person assembly – comprising predominantly Islamists – time to complete its task of producing a draft constitution. However the situation is complicated by the fact that the generals have the right to oppose any of the articles contained in the constitutional draft.

Crucially, the document will specify the powers of the president and parliament, as well as the role of the generals who retain significant clout. It will also define the role played by Islam in Egypt's government system.

Days before Mursi's election on 24 June, Egyptian courts dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament on the grounds that the election rules were unconstitutional – a charge disputed by Islamists. The generals also decreed that completion of the new constitution was the precursor to new parliamentary elections, with the military exercising legislative power until such time.