Legitimacy of Egypt's presidential elections commission questioned

Gamal Essam El-Din , Friday 16 Mar 2012

Some MPs balk against Article 28 of the Constitutional Declaration of March 2011, which gives unchallengeable powers to the Higher Presidential Election Commission


Although Egypt’s first post-January 25 Revolution presidential election are just two months away, some raise doubts about the commission in charge of supervising it. They cite the fact that the orders of the Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC), headed by chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Farouk Sultan, tasked with monitoring the poll, will be immune to appeal.

Members of the People’s Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee have asked for the Constitutional Declaration of March 2011, which strips citizens of any right to legally or constitutionally challenge the decisions issued by HPEC, to be amended. They sharply attacked the article in question, Article 28, going so far as arguing that it is designed to allow for the rigging of the upcoming election.

According to leftist MP Abul Ezz Al-Hariri, “The upcoming presidential election will be invalid under this article which makes the decisions of HPEC immune to any appeals.” In spite of this attack, El-Hariri decided to register himself as a leftist candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.

In the words of Al-Hariri: “How can we be prevented from filing appeals against the administrative decisions of this commission?” El-Hariri proposed submitting a request to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to amend this article, "without a need for putting the matter to a referendum.”

Salafist MP Mamdouh Ismail described the article as “a conspiracy against the Egyptian people and parliament.” “It is designed to foment a state of confusion,” said Ismail, adding that the conspiracy was “committed by all who participated in the drafting of the Constitutional Declaration.”

“The head of the Constitutional Court, who also heads HPEC, had previously participated in rigging the election of the Lawyers' Syndicate,” Ismail said, indicating that “When Sultan was head of the South Cairo Court and was responsible for supervising the election of the Lawyers’ Syndicate in 2009 under the previous regime of Hosni Mubarak, he played a leading role in rigging this election to prevent Islamists from winning.”

In return for this, alleged Ismail, former president Hosni Mubarak awarded Sultan with heading the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

Joining forces with Ismail, MP Saad Aboud said, “The chairman of the SCC is a forger and I was an eyewitness to the fraud described by Ismail.” “Does it make sense for the head of the Constitutional Court to double as the head of the commission supervising the presidential election? And how are citizens to be prevented from filing appeals against the decisions of a commission headed by this man?” wondered Aboud.

In response, Sultan indicated that “Article 28 of the Constitutional Declaration cannot be amended for two reasons: the first is that the amendment should be put to a public referendum, and the second is that members of HPEC represent Egypt’s highest judicial authorities and the decisions of these can never be appealed or challenged.”

Sultan also argued that “Opening the door for appealing against the decisions of HPEC, especially its decisions about the results of the presidential election, will leave the legitimacy and constitutionality of the elected president on shaky ground and this is quite dangerous for the political stability of Egypt.”

The majority of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in parliament also refused to countenance amending Article 28 of the Constitutional Declaration, albeit for other reasons. According to Hussein Ibrahim, the FJP's parliamentary spokesman, “Article 28 forms a part of the Constitutional Declaration which was approved in a public referendum on 19 March 2011, and in order to amend any of the articles of this declaration, the matter should be decided by a referendum again.”

Ibrahim added: “The time for holding such a referendum is very short, especially at a time when the nation is busy following the drafting of the new constitution and preparing for the upcoming presidential elections."

Agreeing with Ibrahim, Mahmoud El-Khodeiri, chairman of the Assembly’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said: “It is quite dangerous to file appeals against the decisions of the representatives of the highest judicial authorities in Egypt and it is also quite dangerous that the legitimacy of the upcoming president be a matter of legal dispute.”

The Advisory Council to the ruling military council, during a recent meeting, demanded that the Constitutional Declaration keep Article 28. Mansour Hassan, head of the Advisory Council, said that the current phase does not allow for any amendments of the article.

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