Judicial advisory body casts doubt over Egypt's elections

Ahram Online, Thursday 7 Jun 2012

State Commissioner's Authority declares key articles of parliamentary electoral law unconstitutional, SPEC illegally referred Disenfranchisement law - calling Egypt's elections into question

Egypt's People's Assembly (Photo: reuters)

The legitimacy of Egypt's parliamentary and presidential elections were called into question on Wednesday when the State Commissioner's Authority, a judicial advisory body to the High Constitutional Court (HCC), filed a number of recommendations that may affect the court's expected verdicts. The HCC is set to issue rulings regarding the Political Disenfranchisement Law and Egypt's electoral law on 14 June, two days before the presidential elections runoffs.

The judicial advisory body recommended that certain articles of parliamentary electoral law are not constitutional. In particular, the recommendations stated, the article that allows party representatives to run for one third of the seats of both the upper and lower house of parliament reserved for independents.

According to the parliamentary electoral law passed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on 1 October 2011, after much debate between Egypt's political parties, two thirds of the parliamentary seats are elected according to electoral lists, while one third is reserved for independents running on single seat tickets.

Allowing party representatives to run for independent seats violates the constitutional principle of equal opportunities, says the State Commissioner's Authority.  

Should the HCC decide to consider these recommendations the electoral results of at least one third of the parliamentary seats are void and the elections will have to be held again.

The Parliament is not the only authority threatened by the 14 June verdicts.

Another report issued by the State Commissioner's Authority puts the Political Disenfranchisement Law in question. The hotly-debated legislation bans those who served in top positions during the last ten years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, such as former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, from entering the presidential race or running for public office.

The judicial advisory body concluded that the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) does not have the right to refer the law to the HCC.  

The SPEC had sent the law to the HCC to determine its constitutionality and in the meantime, accepted an appeal from presidential candidate Shafiq to run in the contest.

Nevertheless the State Commissioner's Authority stated that it believed the law, which was passed by the Parliament and approved by the SCAF in April 2012, is unconstitutional.

Despite this recommendation, the reported added that because the law was legally written and sanctioned by the relevant authorities and because the SPEC has no legal right to refer the law – Ahmed Shafiq should have been prevented from running.

This, as explained by legal experts, would mean that the presidential elections will have to be repeated.

However, the HCC will ultimately choose whether to accept the recommendations of the judicial advisory body or to issue a different verdict.

In response to the recommendations of the State Commissioner's Authority, SPEC official sources told Al-Ahram's Arabic language website Thursday that it is waiting for the HCC's verdict on the law – as, the source reiterated, the State Commissioner's Authority is merely an advisory body.  

SPEC official sources, nevertheless, agreed with the State Commissioner's Authority, that should the HCC's decision be that the SPEC was not entitled to refer the Political Disenfranchisement Law, and Shafiq is therefore illegally running, then the elections may need to be repeated.

The sources also confirmed that it is not possible to substitute the elimination of Shafiq with nomination of the Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, who came in third, in the final round.

The electoral commission source highlighted three possible outcomes if the advisory body's comments are taken into consideration.  

Firstly, that the elections will be repeated should Shafiq be banned from running. Secondly if the court decides that the law is in fact unconstitutional, then Shafiq will continue to the runoff. Thirdly, the HCC may decide to postpone the verdict on the Political Disenfranchisement law until after the presidential run offs, allowing Shafiq to run. 

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