Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court convened Saturday morning in full view of broadcast television cameras to review two appeals on the rights or wrongs of administrative and lower court decisions that are knotting up Egypt's transition to civilian rule.
One of the two appeals related to a surprise decision on Thursday by the Supreme Presidential Elections Commision (SPEC) a month before elections to allow a former regime member, Ahmed Shafiq, to run in the race.
The Disenfranchisement Law, endorsed by parliament and passed by Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), was supposed to prevent former regime members - especially those that are seen as participating in some of the most corrupt years of the regime - from holding office or contaminating Egypt’s political rebirth.
The SPEC let the public infer that they find the Disenfranchisement Law unconstitutional by referring it to the constitutional court. Notably, the head of the SPEC is also a constitutional court judge.
Minister of Parliament Essam Sultan objected and brought it to court, which is one of the two appeals the supreme court reviewed in the televised sessions.
The MP challenged not the decision to allow Shafiq to run, nor the sticky subject of the conflict of the head of SPEC challenging the constitutionality in his own constitutional court, but rather the technical issue of whether the SPEC has the authority to refer the recently-approved Disenfranchisement Law to the Supreme Constitutional Court.
The Supreme Administrative Court today ruled that the SPEC does have the right to question the consitutionality of the Disenfranchisement Law in court. In the end, the supreme court's ruling may affect Shafiq's candidacy, but in the meantime the SPEC is allowing him to continue to run.
The other appeal was filed by the state against the Benha Administrative (lower) Court ruling issued Wednesday, which suspended presidential elections due to administrative errors. Namely, according to the court, the law does not authorise the SPEC to call for elections.
Despite the Benha court’s ruling, however, the SPEC announced Wednesday night that the elections would be held as scheduled – a blatant disregard of the administrative court's decision.
Today's Supreme Administrative Court decision to overturn the lower court's decision made the power struggle between the judiciary and the SPEC a moot point for now, however, since they agree with the SPEC in pushing the elections to go on as planned.
Had the supreme court, however ruled against the SPEC, the "next steps" would have been nebulous because article 28 of the constitutional declaration, which was passed by referendum in March 2011 as an interim constitution, states that the commission decisions are exempt from appeal.