The constitutionality of the new People's Assembly is called into question, reports Mona El-Nahhas
On 21 February the Higher Administrative Court decided to refer three articles regulating People's Assembly elections to the Supreme Constitutional Court to judge whether or not they conform with the constitution.
Magdi El-Agati, chief justice of the Higher Administrative Court, said the articles had been referred because they could violate principles of equality enshrined in the constitution.
If the Supreme Constitutional Court rules that the articles are unconstitutional the three-stage People's Assembly election, held between late November 2011 and January 2012, which saw Islamist parties dominate Egypt's first post- revolution parliament, could be annulled.
It would not be the first time the Supreme Constitutional Court has issued a ruling that resulted in the dissolution of parliament and the restaging of elections. Should it do so again the transitional period, which under SCAF's current timetable is due to end on 30 June with the election of a new president, may be prolonged, leading to further political turmoil and the prospect of mass demonstrations demanding a speedier transfer of power.
The People's Assembly and Shura Council are due to meet on 4 March to begin the process of selecting 100 members of the constituent assembly which, under 19 March Constitutional Declaration, is mandated to draft a new constitution. What will the assembly's legal position be if the Supreme Constitutional Court rules the People's Assembly election law unconstitutional?
Some legal experts argue that the status of the assembly would not be affected since the dissolution of parliament will not annul any decrees it issued before being formerly disbanded.
The most contentious of the articles is the one reserving two thirds of the People's Assembly 498 seats for candidates standing on party lists. The Higher Administrative Court ruled that the ratio of seats unfairly discriminates against independent, non party based candidates, a situation compounded by the fact that members of political parties, by virtue of articles 3, 6 and 9, could also stand in districts supposedly reserved for independent candidates.
The court ruled that the articles in question violated the constitution which prohibits any kind of discrimination between citizens by allowing party candidates to run for both individual seats and seats allocated to party lists.
"I do not expect the Supreme Constitutional Court to issue a ruling in this case any time soon," says professor of constitutional law Atef El-Banna.
He foresees two possible scenarios: the court may quash the appeal referred to it by the Higher Administrative Court in which case the People's Assembly would maintain its legitimacy, or it could confirm the unconstitutionality of the controversial articles in the People's Assembly.
"In the latter case the court may either order the dissolution of the People's Assembly and call for fresh parliamentary polls or order the one third of seats for which both independents and political party candidates competed to be vacated and new elections, excluding candidates belonging to political parties, be held in these seats."