Legal experts, activists react in anger to Egypt Constitutional Court verdicts

Ahram Online, Thursday 14 Jun 2012

Parliament dissolved, disenfranchisement law ruled unconstitutional, constituent assembly's status uncertain – legal experts and activists condemn Thursday's court rulings

Supreme Constitutional Court
Protesters shout in front of police outside the Supreme Constitutional Court (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's High Constitutional Court made two important ruling Thursday that will have a profound effect on the country's political future.

Parliament was dissolved, as one third of the parliamentary seats reserved for individual candidates were deemed unconstitutional.

The Political Disenfranchisement Law was also rejected by the court, giving former regime figure Ahmed Shafiq the go ahead to face the Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi in the 16-17 June presidential runoff.

The verdicts triggered clashes in front of the court where demonstrators had gathered to demand Shafiq be barred from standing in the election runoff. All gates surrounding the court were shut and iron barricades were used to completely seal the area.

The recently chosen constituent assembly would also be automatically dissolved because the law governing its formation had not been officially passed by the parliament, according to law professor Hossam Eissa.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is expected to take over the legislative functions of the parliament until the parliamentary elections are re-run, he said.  

"We are back to square one", Eissa added.

"The verdict concerning the unconstitutionality of the disenfranchisement law was expected and so was the verdict stating that the parliamentary election law was unconstitutional," said legal expert and former head of the State Council Mohamed Hamed El-Gamal. "We, as legal experts, warned in both cases that laws in general cannot be used for political purposes."

El-Gamal agreed with Eissa that the constituent assembly would be dissolved, saying that the MPs responsible for electing the assembly's members, or who had been nominated to sit on the assembly, would be unable maintain their position.   

The SCAF should dissolve both houses of parliament and call for fresh parliamentary elections within 60 days, said El-Gamal. Eissa, however, disagreed with the timeframe, saying that no document outlined when the parliamentary elections must be re-run.   

Activists have described the verdicts as provocative but unsurprising.

"I was not expecting much from the court's verdict. We already considered all electoral organisations, including parliament and presidential elections, illegitimate, because they occurred under military rule. Similarly, all of these rulings took place under the illegitimate authority of the SCAF," said Ghada Shahbandar, a prominent figures in Mobteloon, a campaign encouraging voters to spoil their ballots in the runoff poll.

Mohamed Waked, a member of the National Front for Justice and Democracy, said the verdict meant the "nationalisation" of the constituent assembly.

"The SCAF will be the acting parliament for the next 6-8 months. It will organise the constitution and until then the new president will work with no powers. The verdict will push voters to choose Morsi, which the SCAF will have no problem with because he will only be serving as an employee of the SCAF," he explained.  

Ahmed Maher, April 6 Youth Movement founder, described the ruling as provocative:  "The verdict means the ousted regime is being re-established and revolution must continue."

"I was against the performance of parliament, but the SCAF now has the legislative authority and this will have major political implications," added Maher.

Khaled Abdel-Hamid, a member of the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement, also said he was not surprised, adding, "This is nothing new to the ousted regime."

Similarly, Sally Toma of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition remarked in an upset and angry tone that "We did not expect a different verdict, we know our judicial system."

Toma also blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for refusing to accept the roadmap, which was repeatedly demanded by revolutionaries, to establish a civil presidential council under which parliamentary and presidential elections would take place.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ezzat, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, commented in a statement to the Al-Ahram Arabic language news website that he believed the Egyptian people would still vote for the Islamist group in both the upcoming presidential runoff and the new parliamentary elections.

He added that the Brotherhood was, however, waiting to read the rationale of the court's verdicts before it could comment officially.

On the other hand, Dina Zakaria, co-founder of the Brotherhood's Committee for Foreign Relations, told Ahram Online that the Brotherhood believed the court decision was political and not constitutional.

"The counter-revolution is trying to revive the old regime and will not accept civilian rule," she added, explaining that Egyptians from all political backgrounds should jointly decide on how to deal with the current situation.


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