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Egyptian judges agree to oversee constitutional referendum

Egyptian judges have announced they will oversee a referendum on the country’s draft constitution. This is the latest move in a growing dispute sparked by the seizure of sweeping powers by the country’s president.

Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council has agreed to oversee the December 15 referendum on the draft constitution, the official MENA news agency reported on Monday. The announcement comes one day after Egypt's judiciary said it would boycott the referendum.

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Judges will not supervise referendum

Opponents of President Mohammed Morsi, including some judges, had hoped to delegitimize the referendum.

Members of the judiciary usually supervise elections in Egypt and some legal experts argue that without its oversight, the December 15 referendum on the country's draft constitution could be deemed invalid. At the very least, it could be expected to raise questions about the legitimacy of the vote.

The judges' decision not to participate in the referendum followed a decision announced by judges at the Supreme Constitutional Court earlier on Sunday to suspend their work indefinitely.

The judges had planned to meet to rule on the legality of the Islamist-dominated assembly that drew up the draft constitution, but said a mass protest by supporters of President Mohamed Morsi prevented them from entering the court house.

It is not clear what effect a decision by the court would have, as the president's November 22 decree placed his decisions above judicial review. However, any decision would have been in defiance of the decree.

Among the provisions of the draft is an article that was retained from the old constitution, which defines "the principles of Shariah" as the main source of legislation. It also adds new Islamic references.

While Morsi has pledged to relinquish his extra powers if Egyptians vote to ratify the constitution, the opposition is vowing to keep up the pressure on the president and his Muslim brotherhood. It has called for another mass rally outside of the presidential palace to be held on Tuesday.

pfd, hc/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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