By NBF News

A controversial Islamist-dominated panel writing Egypt's new constitution has convened to begin voting on the document's final draft, a move likely to stoke a widening political crisis over decrees giving President Mohamed Morsi near absolute powers.

Egyptian television broadcasted yesterday's vote live in the assembly, a body that has been boycotted by liberals and Christians for weeks.

The vote came amid accusations that the panel is railroading the charter and as protests mount over an escalating struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president and the courts over control of the political transition.

Fast-tracking the process appears aimed at pre-empting a possible ruling on Sunday by Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court to dissolve the constitutional assembly. The court will also rule on the legitimacy of parliament's upper chamber, also dominated by Islamists. The lower chamber, the lawmaking People's Assembly, was dissolved by the same court in June.

Morsi addressed the nation later yesterday in an attempt to ease the crisis, which has set off a week of street protests that have continued unabated. Two people have been killed and hundreds injured in nationwide demonstrations ignited by the president's decree, issued last week, barring the judiciary from challenging his decisions.

Egyptians continued protests in Tahrir Square against Morsi for a seventh straight day yesterday, accusing him of assuming dictatorial powers. Clashes between stone-throwing protesters and police launching tear gas canisters also continued overnight.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other supporters of the president have vowed to demonstrate on Saturday.