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Egypt presidential elections to proceed as planned, SPEC says

Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) disregards administrative court ruling suspending this month's presidential poll; judicial source tells media that decision will likely be overturned

Ahram Online , Thursday 10 May 2012
presidential elections
A woman walks past a street vendor sitting under electoral posters with pictures of presidential candidates Khaled Ali, top row, Aboul Ezz el-Hariri, center, and Hamdeen Sabahi, with Arabic writing which reads "The Revolution Continues" in Cairo (Photo: AP)
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Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) announced Wednesday night that upcoming elections would be held on schedule, disregarding an earlier decision by a lower administrative court suspending presidential elections set for 23 and 24 May.

The court in the Nile Delta city of Benha cited administrative errors, namely that the law does not give the SPEC ultimate powers to call for elections.

However, a judicial source informed AFP that the ruling will be appealed in Cairo on Thursday and is expected to be overturned because the country's de-facto military rulers, who exercise executive authority, delegated these powers to the electoral commission.

According to legal experts, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) could also call for elections to rectify the SPEC's error. MP Essam Sultan and judge Mohamed El-Garhi, deputy head of the State Council, said that If  the country's de-facto leader and head of the SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, calls for presidential election, the court decision suspending polling could be easily overturned.

The court's decision comes in response to a case filed by lawyer Wael Bahgat, requesting the election's suspension based on questions regarding the legality of Article 1 of Egypt's presidential elections law. The court gave Bahgat three months to refer the 'disenfranchisement law' to Egypt's Supreme Counstitutional Court.

Earlier Wednesday, the country's ruling military council affirmed in a statement that presidential elections will be held on time, after concerns arose about the postponement of the elections following the SPEC's suspension of its activities Monday.

Shortly afterwards, the SPEC stated that it had received an official copy of the Administrative Court's decision overturning an earlier ruling by the commission to refer the "disenfranchisement law" – which bans Mubarak-era officials from holding political posts – to Egypt's Constitutional Court.

The SPEC had earlier announced plans to resume its activity after having suspended it on Monday to protest perceived parliamentary interference in its affairs.  

Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq was disqualified from Egypt's presidential elections on 26 April, after the disenfranchisement law was passed by Parliament and approved by the ruling SCAF.

One day later, however, the SPEC accepted an appeal lodged by Shafiq, allowing him to rejoin the presidential race – even though the law was still technically in place.

Shafiq is currently the third most popular presidential candidate, according to three recent opinion polls. Ahmed Shafiq's campaign refrained from commenting on the Administrative Court's decision, stating merely that it would "abide by the SPEC's decision", according to campaign spokesperson Ahmed Sarhan.

Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential poll is slated for 23 and 24 May, with a runoff vote to be held on 16 and 17 June in the event that no single candidate wins an outright majority. Egypt’s next president will be formally named on 21 June.

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