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Constitutional Court suspension of Administrative Court ruling over island deal victory for parliament: Speaker

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 21 Jun 2017
Ali Abdel Aal
Egypt's parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal (Photo: Al Ahram)
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The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) decision on Wednesday to suspend the execution of two contradicting judicial rulings on an Egyptian-Saudi deal that places two Red Sea islands in Saudi territorial waters was hailed by MPs on Wednesday.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs that the SCC ruling shows that administrative courts have no jurisdiction over these kinds of foreign deals.

"This ruling clearly goes in line with Article 151 of the constitution, which states that the president has the exclusive power to sign foreign deals and parliament has the sole prerogative of discussing and voting on them," said Abdel-Aal, adding that "this is a victory for parliament and for the principle of separation of powers."

On 14 June, parliament approved the April 2016 border demarcation deal in a majority vote after heated discussions over four sessions.

The opposition 25/30 bloc opposed a vote on the deal by parliament, arguing that the legislature should abide by the January 2017 ruling by the High Administrative Court that voided the deal.

The adminstrative court's decision on the deal was met with a decision by the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters in April 2017 stating that administrative courts have no jurisdiction over issues relating to executive decisions on national borders.

The SCC is set to hear arguments over court jurisdiction on the deal on 30 July.

Abdel-Aal also argued that the SCC ruling sends a message to administrative courts not to “infringe on parliament's authorities.”

Abdel-Aal added that “that the performance of all state authorities, including parliament, should be governed by the constitution, and it is only the SCC that has the power to supervise this performance and give a final say on it.”

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan also praised the SCC ruling, saying it has set a precedent that administrative courts have no power to issue rulings on foreign agreements.

"The president has the sovereign power of signing these agreements, and this is not an administrative matter that could be supervised by the courts," said Marawan.

Mohamed El-Sewedi, the head of parliament’s majority bloc Support Egypt, also said the SCC ruling is a victory for parliament and MPs.

"This ruling vindicates MPs who voted in favour of the deal and who faced a hostile press campaign accusing them of treason," said El-Sewedi, who has insisted that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir are Saudi.

El-Sewedi also dismissed the idea that the deal would help Israel dig a canal connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea that might compete with the Suez Canal.

Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, the head of parliament's constitutional and legislative affairs committee, argued that SCC's ruling means court rulings on foreign deals should be considered null and void, and all authorities should respect the principle of the separation of powers.

MP Noureddin Abdel-Razek told MPs that the Egyptian Social Democratic Party has dismissed him from the party's ranks because he voted in favour of the deal.

"Thank God that the SCC ruling was issued today to prove that I was right and the party was wrong," said Abdel-Razek.

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