Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Election ping pong

After rushing through an election law President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood now find themselves in a legal stalemate. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Egypt
Egypt
Al-Ahram Weekly

Constitutional and legal obstacles must still be overcome before Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood can set a date for parliamentary elections.

On 6 March the Administrative Court ordered that parliamentary polls would have to be delayed until the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled whether or not the amendments it had ordered to be made to the election law were constitutional. That order is now being appealed. Most experts expect the appeal to be rejected. A ruling is due on Sunday.

A report prepared by the Higher Administrative Court’s advisory board found the 6 March judicial order fully justified. The report affirmed that both Morsi and the Shura Council had violated articles 141 and 177 of the newly-approved constitution by ratifying legislation without first seeking the official approval of the government and by failing to refer the amended electoral law back to the Supreme Constitutional Court.

“President Morsi,” said the report, “failed to seek the government’s approval though under the newly-instituted parliamentary-presidential system the president of the republic is authorised to exercise his sovereign powers only in the areas of foreign policy and defence.” The report went on to note that the “Shura Council failed to conform to Article 177 of the constitution which compels it to refer political laws to the SCC until they are judged constitutional.”

According to professor of constitutional law Gaber Nassar, as long as the 6 March order delaying parliamentary polls until the SCC rules on whether the election law, passed by the Shura Council and ratified by Morsi on 21 February, stands the president should use the time to try and mend fences. “The SCC will take at least four months to rule on the election law. President Morsi should exploit this period to make overtures to opposition forces which had decided to boycott the election.”

Meanwhile the Muslim Brotherhood, which controls 65 per cent of Shura Council seats, is rallying behind a new election law submitted by the Wasat Party, a Brotherhood splinter group. According to Sobhi Saleh, a leading member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), “once this new election law is approved by the Shura Council the SCC is obliged to present a ruling within 45 days, making it possible for the president to set a date for elections sometime in May.”

The Shura Council’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee discussed the new election law this week but failed to reach agreement. MPs were divided over three significant issues cited earlier by the SCC: the redrafting of constituency boundaries; the prohibition of candidates who failed to perform military service for security reasons and the supervision of the poll for expatriate Egyptians. 

“The SCC,” argued Saleh, “ordered that electoral districts be determined on the basis of the number of registered voters rather than the population of each district.”

Rami Lakah, a high profile Christian businessman and appointed MP, disagreed. “The re-drawing must be based on population,” he insisted. “If it is based solely on registered voters the new boundaries could be judged unconstitutional.”

He also argued that “the number of Copts in some districts is much higher than in others and it would be unfair not to take this into account.”

Lakah attacked the government for dividing Shubra, a North Cairo district with a majority of Copts, into two separate units to which other districts were then annexed.

“I blame the Interior Ministry for a division clearly based on sectarian lines and which aims at stripping Copts of any meaningful parliamentary voice,” said Lakah. 

Wasat MP Amr Farouk urged that the parliamentary elections ignore recent boundary changes altogether and revert to the districts used in the 2012 parliamentary poll. “I don’t think the Constitutional Court will object to districts that take population density into account,” said Farouk.

In an attempt to reach a compromise over the controversial ban on candidates who had failed to complete their military service because of security concerns, Farouk said his party’s proposed law made it explicit that “anyone who has not performed military duty for security reasons must seek a ruling from the administrative courts that they no longer constitute a danger to national security before they can contest elections.”

The government’s take on the Wasat proposals took many deputies by surprise. Deputy Justice Minister Omar Al-Sherif expressed the government’s concern that “members of the Shura Council are not constitutionally authorised to propose legislation since the new constitution reserves this right to the government and the House of Representatives [which has yet to be elected].”

Sherif argued that since “Article 101 of the constitution gives the government and the House the prerogative of proposing legislations the Wasat draft election law if enacted could be ruled unconstitutional.”

 

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