An end to sequestration
reviews developments as professional syndicates assert their independence
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The Bar Association's council -- dominated by members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and headed by Hamdi Khalifa -- was dissolved by order of the Administrative Court on 6 July. Lawyers greeted the ruling with cheers.
The court ruled that the Bar Association's 2009 elections were null and void. The verdict was based on a judgement issued last January by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which ruled that Law 100/1993 regulating elections at professional syndicates unconstitutional.
Last week's ruling applies to all professional syndicates. They are now expected to dissolve their own councils and hold new elections.
Under the Administrative Court ruling a judicial committee will run the syndicate's affairs for up to 60 days, or until fresh council elections are staged. The court called on the head of the Cairo Appeals Court to form this committee.
Khalifa pledged to implement the ruling at once.
Reacting to the news Sameh Ashour, former chairman of the Bar Association, said the ruling will bring the Bar Association back to the forefront of the political scene. Ashour revealed his intention to run in the coming syndicate council elections.
Leftist lawyer Mohamed El-Damati, a member of the dissolved syndicate council, agreed with Ashour.
"Following the 2009 elections the Bar Association was not allowed to play any political role. We were totally absent from what was going on," El-Damati said. Everything was run by the council's NDP members to serve the former regime.
The priorities of the new council, said El-Damati, must include amending the law regulating their profession in a way that maintains the dignity of lawyers as well as upgrading the services offered to members and improving the financial position of the syndicate.
On 1 July the Engineers' Syndicate held its first general assembly since 1995 to set a date for elections to their syndicate council.
"The time has come for engineers to run their own affairs," said Minister of Irrigation Hussein El-Atfi. El-Atfi opened the assembly in his legal capacity as the syndicate general supervisor.
Members of the general assembly decided that nominations should open on 15 July and elections be held on 15 September. The general assembly also recommended the five judicial custodians cease administering the syndicate and hand all relevant papers to the committee that will supervise the elections.
"Since 1995 engineers have been prevented from challenging the judicial sequestration of their union," Omar Abdella, a member of the anti-sequestration group of engineers, said after the assembly.
The authorities feared an Islamist dominated council would be returned in elections and so connived to maintain the sequestration of the union. It seems they are still doing so.
Resolutions passed during the general assembly were denounced by the custodians, who claimed that the assembly was itself illegal. The custodians have asked the Administrative Court to judge their claims. It will begin hearings on 17 September.
Abdella believes elections will go ahead regardless.
"If the elections are judged illegal the worst case scenario will be the annulment of the results and a call for new elections," he says. "Whatever happens will be a victory for us since, regardless of the validity of elections, it means that sequestration has finally come to an end."
Law 100/1993 constituted an obstacle to all syndicates. It stipulated a range of near impossible conditions for holding elections, leaving it up to a judicial committee to call for the polls and regulate the election process. Under the law professional syndicates tended to keep their old councils. Doctors and pharmacists were among the victims of the legislation. Indeed, the council elections held last Friday at the Pharmacists' Syndicate were the first since 1995.
The Muslim Brotherhood won 70 per cent of council seats, including the chairman's, which went to Mohamed Abdel-Gawwad, a former deputy chair. Following the announcement of election results, Abdel-Gawwad stressed that he would deal with syndicate issues on a professional, not political, basis.
The sweeping victory achieved by the MB in the elections of the Pharmacists' Syndicate led many to speculate that it would be repeated across a host of state institutions.