Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi has said that a referendum on the constitution will take place in the second half of January, rather than next month as expected.
The constitutional is currently being drafted, and the nationwide referendum is a part of a multi-staged political roadmap put in by the army on July 3, following the ouster of the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi.
“I believe that it will take place in the second half of January,” Beblawi told reporters. He did not give any reasons for the delay.
The referendum, according to the roadmap, will pave the way for presidential and legislative elections to follow later that year.
A committee of 50 members started working in September on amending a constitution that was pushed forth by Morsi, and deemed by his critics as favoring austere interpretations of Islam at the expense of freedoms.
The panel, which was given a 60-day deadline by the army to complete the draft, includes only few Islamists as the majority refuse to engage with the incumbent government, and continue to stage protests denouncing the military coup that toppled Morsi.
Leaked copies of initial amendments to the document show a desire to curb the influence of Islamic laws as well as facilitate the return of figures linked to Hosni Mubarak’s regime, who was ousted in the 2011 uprising.
Hundreds of pro-Morsi have been killed since July and thousands have been detained, while the western peninsula of Sinai has witnessed months of almost-daily attacks by armed groups targeting security forces.
The announcement comes a day after the interim president Adli Mansour passed a law banning public gatherings and protests. The bill has stirred a row among activists and human rights groups.
The North African country’s government ended a three-month state of emergency and curfew which was imposed following the July coup.