Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

A question of timing

Rulings by the Supreme Constitutional Court are not expected to stand in the way of parliamentary elections. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

A question of timing
A question of timing
Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) was expected on Wednesday to rule on six lawsuits contesting the constitutionality of laws regulating the exercise of political rights, the workings of the House of Representatives and setting the boundaries of constituencies.

Political experts interviewed by Al-Ahram Weekly do not expect the SCC’s rulings to disrupt the timetable of parliamentary elections. According to Mohamed Al-Shennawi, deputy chairman of the SCC, the six lawsuits, filed with the Cairo Administrative Court, were referred to SCC for a final judgement this week. “The SCC began hearings on the six lawsuits on Sunday,” he says.

A report by the SCC’s panel of commissioners on Saturday recommending that some articles of the three election laws be ruled unconstitutional is just “advisory”, says Al-Shennawi.

“The SCC’s board of judges is free to differ with this recommendation or approve it. If the SCC does rule that some articles are unconstitutional it will explain, in clear-cut terms, how the articles should be amended. The election is therefore unlikely to be delayed for long.”

“If any article of the three election laws is ruled unconstitutional by the SCC this week the government will move quickly to pass the necessary amendments,” says Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidi.

“The committee which drafted the texts of the three election laws will meet immediately to study the SCC’s ruling and see whether any articles have to be amended. The process will not delay the elections.”

The 11-member committee met on Monday to prepare a memorandum defending its draft of the three laws.

“The memorandum will be submitted to SCC to counter the commissioners’ claim that some articles of the three laws are unconstitutional,” says committee member and constitutional law professor Ali Abdel-Aal.

“The lawsuits filed against the laws on the exercise of political rights and the House of Representatives are not expected to cause any delay for the polls,” adds Abdel-Aal. “The drafting committee is ready to meet on Wednesday to study the SCC ruling and see how articles can be amended in one or two days, so as not to disrupt the election process.”

The petitions filed against the laws on exercise of political rights and the House of Representatives argue that they contain articles that are unconstitutional because they set different ceilings for campaign costs for independent and party-list candidates.

“The petitions are unconvincing and I do not expect the laws to be ruled unconstitutional by the SCC,” says Abdel-Aal. “The two laws were thoroughly revised by the State Council’s Department of Legislation and Fatwa, the Higher Council of Judges and the Higher Election Committee.”

The petitions filed against the constitutionality of the electoral districts law are a different matter, says Abdel-Aal. The petitioners argue that the electoral districts law discriminates against some constituencies reserved for independent candidates by ignoring “constitutional stipulations that a balance be struck among them in terms of population density and size.”

“If ruled unconstitutional, the law will have to be amended by the drafting committee,” said Abdel-Aal.

It is a prospect that is fuelling fears that there will be a delay in parliament convening.

“If amendments are ordered by the SCC and they take more than a week to draft the new parliament will be unable to convene before Ramadan, which begins on 18 June,” says Gamal Zahran , a political analyst and former independent MP.

Adli Mansour, head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, has opted not to take part in the court’s deliberations over the laws regulating political rights and the House of Representatives because they were issued while he was interim president.

Anwar Al-Assi, the SCC’s deputy chairman, is overseeing the judgement. The electoral districts law was passed in December, six months after Mansour was replaced by Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The Higher Election Committee (HEC) announced on Sunday that 7,416 candidates have registered to contest Egypt’s parliamentary polls, scheduled to be held between 21-22 March and 6-7 May.

“Of these, 4,836 hope to stand as independents and 2,580 on party lists,” says HEC spokesman Omar Marawan.

Though the registration period officially closed at 7pm on 19 February, candidates who missed the deadline because of the required medical tests were allowed to submit their completed papers on Friday, 20 February and Saturday, 21 February.

“Sunday’s announcement of an initial tally of candidates was followed by three days during which candidates who were not allowed to register could file appeals at the administrative justice court,” says Marawan.

Up to 400 appeals are thought to have been filed. Ahmed Ezz, the controversial Mubarak-era MP and business tycoon, is among those appealing the HEC’s decision to refuse registration.

Ezz, who was seeking to stand in the Nile delta governorate of Menoufiya, was disqualified from running after failing to include documents detailing his financial dealings and the state of his health.

Ezz’s second wife, the former MP Shahinaz Al-Naggar, successfully registered as an independent candidate in the Cairo district of Al-Manial.

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