Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi [BBC profile] announced on Monday that plans to hold the country's constitutional referendum will likely be delaying until January, rather than taking place in December as originally expected. The interim government, which has been in place since Mohamed Morsi's [BBC profile] removal from office [JURIST report], has organized a committee of 50 members who are currently working to amend the existing constitution that was established under the ousted president's administration. It is widely speculated that the amendments will attempt to curb the strong Islamic influence present in the existing constitution. Originally, the committee was given 60 days to complete the draft, which is to be put to a referendum. Though the interim prime minister gave no explanation for the delay, it now appears that the draft will not be complete until mid-January.
Egypt has faced political unrest since the Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] began over two years ago. The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court announced in February that it had rejected parts of the draft election law [JURIST report] that will govern the country's parliamentary elections. Earlier that month the Supreme Constitutional Court postponed ruling [JURIST report] on whether the legislative constitutional assembly that recently drafted a new charter was legitimate. The judges claimed a crowd of Islamists outside the courthouse of had intimidated the judges and blocked the entrance to the courthouse. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in late January voiced concern [JURIST report] over the growing violence and rising death toll in Egypt stemming from ongoing protests throughout the country. Earlier in January recently disposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency in an attempt to quell growing unrest and violent political protests in cities a day after nationwide unrest compounded following an Egyptian court ruling handing down 21 death sentences [JURIST reports] for a 2012 soccer riot that resulted in 74 deaths and thousands of injuries.
11/26/13 ~ A spokesperson for the constituent assembly has said the referendum will proceed in January [Reuters report], contradicting el-Beblawi's statement.