Al-Ahram Weekly Online   27 September - 3 October 2012
Issue No. 1116
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Two blows for the Brotherhood

The Freedom and Justice Party's attempts to reinstate the People's Assembly go nowhere, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) has upheld an earlier ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) declaring last elections to the People's Assembly, which saw the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafist parties between them win 71 per cent of seats, invalid.

Brotherhood lawyers reacted angrily to Saturday's decision, vowing to contest the verdict.

The following day, 23 September, SAC issued a further five rulings confirming the dissolution of the assembly.

Islamist parties have long contended that the SCC overstepped its authority in disbanding the assembly in its entirety and should instead have called for re-elections in the third of seats supposedly reserved for independents but in which party affiliated candidates were allowed to stand, an anomaly the SCC judged unconstitutional.

Mahmoud Al-Khodeiri, chairman of the dissolved assembly's Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, insists that the SCC's 14 June ruling was politically motivated.

"This assembly was elected by 30 million Egyptians in fair and free election. SCC rulings cannot take precedence over the will of the people," he said. "We still hope the SAC will revise its opinion on 15 October and reinstate two thirds of the assembly."

In a statement issued after the 22 September ruling the FJP said "the atmosphere in which it [the verdict] was issued raises a lot of questionsâê¦ The court had earlier decided to adjourn the case before the ruling supporting the dissolution of the assembly was issued."

Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud argued "the court's decision tarnishes the image of Egypt's democratic process".

"We believe that the judiciary needs urgent reform," he said. "The FJP will continue its battle against judicial orders while at the same prepare for upcoming parliamentary elections."

Not all Brotherhood lawyers took issue with the verdict. Former Brotherhood MP Sobhi Saleh said "judicial orders must be respected and I think that FJP's efforts must now be entirely devoted to preparing for upcoming elections".

Several petitions have been filed with the SAC seeking the dissolution of the People's Assembly in its entity or else pushing for re-elections in a third of seats.

"The court decided to delay one suit to mid-October on procedural grounds" said prominent lawyer Shawki Al-Sayed. He believes that once the final petition is heard the SAC will come down firmly on the side of dissolution since it is now "a matter of principle".

Al-Sayed accused Muslim Brotherhood of trying to undermine judicial authorities.

"However autocratic the regime of Hosni Mubarak, SCC orders were respected and implemented," said Shawki. "Now we are face with an arrogant and authoritarian Muslim Brotherhood that wants to pick the judgements it respects, choosing only those that see its partisan interests."

The real significance of the 22 September verdict is that it not only upheld the SCC's decision but thwarted Brotherhood attempts to drive a wedge between the SCC and other judicial authorities."

Liberal and leftist forces welcomed the verdict.

"Respect for the rule of law must be upheld to ensure stability in the political arena and underwrite respect both the state and people," said Amr Moussa.

"The verdict confirming the dissolution of parliament serves to remind those in power that judicial independence is the foundation on which democratic societies are built," said Mohamed Al-Baradei, the founder of the newly-licensed Constitution Party.

The Islamist dominated Shura Council, elected under the same regulations as the People's Assembly, is expected to face the same fate. Petitions contesting its constitutionality are now before the SCC which is expected to issue a judgement on 30 September.

The Muslim Brotherhood received another setback on 23 September when the SAC issued a verdict backing the right of former members of the now-defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to contest parliamentary elections.

"Citizens can be deprived of their political rights only if they have been convicted of a criminal offence," said SAC presiding judge Magdi Al-Agati.

The SAC ruling, Al-Agati continued, does not contradict an earlier verdict dissolving the NDP and confiscating its assets.

"Last year's order was based on the fact that the 25 January Revolution caused the complete collapse of the NDP," said Al-Agati.

Former NDP members welcomed the ruling. NDP MP Heidar Boghdadi told Al-Ahram Weekly that members of Mubarak's ruling party would contest the elections and were likely to form a significant bloc in any new parliament.

"The Brotherthood is angry about the ruling because its popularity has plummeted and it knows it will be unable to win a majority of seats."

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