CAIRO The head of the assembly drafting Egypt's new constitution said the final draft should be finished on Wednesday, as the Islamist-dominated body races to finish a process that has helped to trigger a political crisis.
The constitution is a crucial element of Egypt's transformation to a new system of government after last year's overthrow of the autocratic president, Hosni Mubarak.
But it is also one of the reasons why President Mohamed Mursi is at loggerheads with his non-Islamist opponents, in particular over a decree he issued last Thursday that expanded his powers.
"We will start now and finish today, God willing," Hossam el-Gheriyani, the assembly speaker, said at the start of its latest session in Cairo.
"If you are upset by the decree, nothing will stop it except a new constitution issued immediately."
Three other members of the assembly, which is being boycotted by most of its non-Islamist members, said there were plans to put the document to a vote on Thursday.
A Muslim Brotherhood official who declined to be named also said a quick conclusion of the constitutional process could offer a way out of the crisis, because the decree would be overridden by the new constitution.
He said Thursday would be a "great day", without elaborating, and called on the members who had withdrawn from the body to return.
Gheriyani said members should come early to Thursday's session, which would start at 10 a.m.
Assembly members Younes Makhyoun and Salah Abdel Maboud, both Salafi Islamists, both told Reuters a vote on the final draft was planned for Thursday. Amr Abdel Hadi, one of the few remaining liberal members, said the same.
"We will finish today and there is agreement on almost all articles ... and then we will start voting," Makhyoun said.
Leading opposition figure Amr Moussa, who withdrew from the assembly last month, said it was misguided to conclude the process so fast.
"This is nonsensical and one of the steps that shouldn't be taken, given the background of anger and resentment to the current constitutional assembly," he told Reuters.
The assembly has been working since June to finish the document, supposed to be the cornerstone of Egypt's new democracy. It will be put to a popular referendum once the assembly approves it.
(Reporting by Tamim Elyan, Tom Perry, Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)