Egypt constitution court blasts draft legislation curtailing its power

Ahram Online , Wednesday 16 May 2012

Court's judges meet to discuss draft legislation proposed by Islamist-led People's Assembly aimed at limiting its authority - including power to dissolve parliament

The general assembly of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court held an urgent meeting on Wednesday to discuss draft legislation aimed at restructuring the court in a way that critics say gives parliament greater control over its affairs.

The development is seen as a new escalation between Egypt's Islamist-led Parliament and the constitutional court.

The court's general assembly consists of 18 judges led by Judge Farouq Sultan, who, along with the court's first vice-chairman, failed to attend Wednesday's meeting. Notably, both men are also members of Egypt's Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission, responsible for regulating Egypt's presidential election.

Last month, the court withdrew its representatives from the constituent assembly – members of which were elected by Parliament in March to draft a new constitution – after the Muslim Brotherhood, which had dominated the assembly, accused the court of being beholden to Egypt's ruling military council.

On Tuesday, Parliament's suggestions and complaints committee endorsed draft amendments to the law governing how the court functions. The proposed amendments were tabled by two MPs from the Salafist Nour Party and supported by representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. The draft amendments currently await discussion by Parliament's legislative committee.

The proposed amendments would give Parliament the authority to overturn rulings issued by the constitutional court, including any future court decision to suspend or disolve parliament. The draft amendments also call for the court's restructuring, including the ouster of all of its current judges, as soon as the amendments are brought into effect.  

The draft legislation has caused an uproar among the court's judges. They point to an article in the current law regulating the constitutional court, which states that the law can only be amended with the approval of the court’s general assembly.

The court on Wednesday afternoon was expected to issue a statement in condemnation of perceived parliamentary attempts to curtail its authority.

MP Mohamed Omoda, undersecretary of Parliament's legislative committee, for his part, slammed the court's general assembly, accusing the court of meddling in parliament's legislative role. He went on to say that the proposed amendments were aimed at ensuring the independence of Egypt's judiciary. 

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