Egypt's constitution legitimate despite court rulings: FJP statement

Ahram Online , Sunday 2 Jun 2013

Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party says ruling on Shura Council, Constituent Assembly has 'no practical effect' as constitution was passed by a popular referendum

Egyptian anti-riot police stand gurad in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, June 2, 2013 (Photo: AP)

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has stated that the court ruling on the Shura Council has 'no practical effect,' following Sunday's verdict by Egypt's High Constitutional Court (HCC) that declared the laws which governed the elections to the Council – parliament's upper house –  unconstitutional.

The ruling on Sunday stated the Council would not be dissolved until a new House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, convenes. 

"The Shura Council will continue its role as a legislative power as stipulated by Article 230 of the constitution, which grants full legislative powers to the Shura Council until a House of Representatives is elected," read the statement, stressing that this was mentioned in the HCC ruling.

According to Article 230 of the constitution, which passed in December 2012 by two-thirds of voters in a referendum, the council is immune from dissolution until a lower house is elected.

The Shura Council has held legislative powers since the issuing of similar court order in June 2012 which dissolved the People's Assembly on grounds of unconstitutionality. 

Constitution legitimated by 'democratic referendum'

On Sunday, the court also ruled that the law regulating the selection of the members of the constitution-drafting Constituent Assembly last year was unconstitutional.

The FJP statement responded saying that the ruling "has no practical effect on the formation of the Constituent Assembly, which was established on the basis of Article 60 of the March 2011 constitutional declaration."

The 2011 constitutional declaration was the first of many issued after the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak. It was issued by the then ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and mandated the People's Assembly (elected at the end of the year) to choose the members of the Constituent Assembly.

The Freedom and Justice Party's statement also said that the constitution was passed through a "real popular and democratic referendum under full judicial supervision," adding that it is now the framework which all state authorities must observe.

"The Freedom and Justice Party sticks by the institution of a constitutional and democratic state ruled by law," the statement concluded.

Ruling's impact yet to be determined

The Administrative Court will decide how to apply Sunday's court verdict and whether it will have an impact on the assembly and constitution that was ratified by a national referendum in December 2012.

It remains uncertain how the ruling will affect the constitution and whether actions and decisions taken under it will be annulled. It is also unclear what the effect will be on legislation issued by the Shura Council.

Former head of Egypt's State Council Judge Mohamed Hamed El-Gamal told Ahram Online that in administrative and constitutional law, if a public employee’s appointment was proven legislatively faulty, then the product of his work can be considered legitimate in exceptional circumstances, such as war or revolution.

El-Gamal believes this applies to Shura Council deputies. He also said if a constitutional article clearly states the Shura Council has the power to legislate in the time being - as does Article 230 of the Egyptian constitution - then all legislation carried out by the Council is legitimate.

Commenting on the Constituent Assembly verdict, El-Gamal said the court’s ruling should annul what resulted from it, i.e. the current constitution. He, however, claimed the ruling on the Shura Council reveals that the court accepts the constitution according to the constitutional concept he explained before.

'Legislative muddle' marks a troubled transition

Expressing his frustration with what he describes as "a country drowning in a legislative and constitutional muddle," El-Gamal said this is what happens when elections are carried out before a constitution is drawn up, referring to the course of events in Egypt after the 2011 revolution.

Sunday's rulings are the latest in a series of court orders challenging the legitimacy of the country's top political institutions. The Islamist-dominated People's Assembly (re-named the House of Representatives) was dissolved in June 2012 following a court order, two days before the presidential election runoff.

In 2012, President Mohamed Morsi issued a presidential decree making both the Constituent Assembly and Shura Council immune from dissolution by court order and temporarily steeling his decisions against judicial appeal.

The move prompted hundreds of thousands to take to the streets to protest both the Constituent Assembly's proposed constitution and President Morsi's controversial decree.

In response, Morsi supporters laid siege to the HCC to prevent judges from ruling on the Shura Council's constitutionality, leading the court to indefinitely freeze all its activity. 

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