More important than the veil and its legality in France, for us at least, is the question of our own People's Assembly and its legitimacy. Courts such as the Higher Administrative Court and the Court of Cassation have already ruled that it is illegal and unconstitutional for new candidates to contest the seats vacated by the draft- dodging deputies. The state and the ruling party cannot just ignore these rulings, as if they were nothing more than newspaper gossip. For them to do so will only confirm the suspicion that the state habitually defies court rulings, something that undermines the credibility of both the judiciary and the executive.
The public must be clearly told whether or not court rulings annulling the elections in the electoral districts of the draft dodgers are valid. If they are not then the People's Assembly is doing nothing wrong. But if the rulings are valid the public needs to know what sort of legitimacy is in force. This all brings to mind how questionable the membership of many of its deputies has turned out to be -- from the double- nationality deputies, to the loans deputies, to the draft dodgers. In all of these cases the law was twisted so that certain people, through guile or collusion, managed to creep their way into the country's top legislative authority. And that, of course, begs a great many questions about the legislative process itself.
By-elections were held after being pronounced invalid in 13 rulings by the Higher Administrative and Cassation courts. The said courts were of the opinion that only the original candidates on the ballots in the districts concerned were allowed to run. The National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Ministry of Interior (MOI) totally ignored the rulings, allowing new candidates to participate. The aim was to reduce the chances of non-NDP candidates and maintain the ruling party's overwhelming majority at the People's Assembly.
NDP and Interior Ministry officials spoke at length about the orderliness of the by-elections, none of which did anything to address the questionable legality of the ballot. The orderliness was, most probably, due to the lack of voters' interest, which may also explain why the NDP lost some seats to independent candidates.
The outcome of the by- elections is not going to change the balance of power within the People's Assembly. It could, however, lead to its dissolution if the opposition, led by the Wafd Party, were to take the matter to the Supreme Constitutional Court. Such a step would help confirm the credibility of the opposition and its commitment to democracy. It is not in anybody's interest to cover up an unconstitutional situation.
Some parties may prefer to ignore the unconstitutional quagmire into which the People's Assembly is slipping in the hope of somehow getting ahead in the national dialogue orchestrated by the NDP. But edifices built on such shaky foundations cannot last long. The NDP could have saved itself much trouble had it honoured court rulings from the very start.
In whose interest is the political system being so distorted? Why are such pathetic actions allowed to sully the country's political life? The public wants political reform to succeed, under the wise leadership of President Mubarak. Such actions obstruct political reform and discredit the advocates of new thinking within the NDP.