Egypt’s liberal MPs have walked out in protest from a parliamentary vote to select members of a panel which will draft a new constitution.
The liberal bloc accused Islamist parties – the majority in parliament – of trying to monopolize the process.
MPs will hold 50 of the 100 seats on the panel to draw up a new constitution following the revolution which ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year.
Once the panel has produced its draft, the text will be put to a referendum.
The constitution will determine the balance of power between the president – previously the supreme authority – and parliament.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says the panel’s work is a key issue for Egypt’s future: the constitution is likely to set the course for the country for what could be decades to come.
One of its first topics will be to decide how heavily the constitution should be guided by Islamic (sharia) law, our correspondent says.
The liberals fear Islamist parties will ignore minority concerns.
Naguib Sawiris, leader of the Free Egyptians party, denounced the process as “ridiculous”.
The Muslim Brotherhood, whose political wing holds the largest number of seats in parliament, posted a list of its nominees for the 50 MPs’ seats on its website.
It included 36 Islamists and 14 MPs from other parties.
The Brotherhood has sought to allay fears that it will seek to impose a strict interpretation of sharia law on the country.