After a five-hour meeting with representatives of several political forces, Egyptian Interim President Adly Mansour was able to gain support for a new law aimed at regulating the country's upcoming presidential poll.
According to Anwar El-Sadat, chairman of the liberal-oriented Reform and Development Party, "President Mansour was keen to listen to the viewpoints of representatives of most political parties over the new law's most contentious articles," especially Article 7, which stripped candidates of filing appeals against the decisions of the Presidential Election Commission (PEC) — the five-member judicial body responsible for supervising the polls.
"At first, President Mansour was keen that all politicians attending the meeting take the floor to express their opinions freely about Article 7," said El-Sadat.
El-Sadat added that President Mansour began by explaining that he invited politicians to the meeting in a bid to gain national agreement on the new law and before presidential elections are held.
El-Sadat cited Mansour as saying that "This meeting should end up with an agreement: either you convince me of your objections, and so I agree changing Article 7, or I convince you of my viewpoint, and so we all agree on maintaining Article 7."
In the words of El-Sadat, "I can say that President Mansour was able to a large extent to convince politicians of the necessity of maintaining Article 7 that makes PEC's decisions immune to appeals."
El-Sadat indicated that Mansour, also in his capacity as head of the High Constitutional Court (HCC), explained that Article 7 goes in line with the constitution, "because it does not strip candidates of lodging complaints with PEC."
El-Sadat cited Mansour as arguing that "You can call it 'complaints' or 'appeals,' but in either way candidates will not be stripped of filing objections to PEC's decisions, and this goes in line with Article 97 of the constitution, which states that all citizens have the right to file appeals against administrative orders."
According to El-Sadat, "Mansour also asked politicians to consider PEC as a judicial authority or as a court having all the necessary judicial powers, and consider candidates as citizens who have the rights to file appeals with this court."
El-Sadat said: "It was surprising that some politicians thought that Article 7 stripped candidates from filing any complaints. Mansour said candidates have full rights to file complaints and that these will be dealt with as appeals by PEC's members, who hail from the country's highest judicial authorities."
El-Sadat also indicated that President Mansour appealed to politicians to take the country's national security into consideration. El-Sadat cited Mansour as arguing that "Article 7 gives candidates the right to file complaints, but at the same time it aims to preserve national security in the form of securing the position of the elected president." "If we opened the door for appeals against PEC's decisions before lower courts, we would push the country into a dark tunnel of political instability," El-Sadat cited Mansour as arguing.
El-Sadat said: "Mansour insisted that it is high time to set political differences aside and that the second stage of the post-30 June political roadmap must be implemented as soon as possible."
According to Mansour, "presidential polls must be held before 17 July 2014 or six months after the constitution was passed on 18 January, and in line with Article 230 of the constitution."
El-Sadat said the strongest objection to Article 7 came from Nasserist politician and 2012 presidential election contender Hamdeen Sabbahi. El-Sadat indicated that Sabbahi labeled Article 7 as unconstitutional, violating Article 97 of the constitution.
Sabbahi argued that "if appeals were not allowed in 2012 presidential polls, this was largely due to the fact that Article 28 of 2011's constitutional declaration — which was approved in a public referendum — clearly made PEC's decisions immune to appeals."
"But now," said Sabbahi, "we have a new constitution that stated that all administrative orders must be subject to appeals, and so all must go in line with this constitution."
El-Sadat said "Mansour's argument left politicians attending the meeting divided into two camps: a majority in support of Article 7 and a minority, including leftist forces and the liberal Constitution (Dostour) Party against Article 7."
Amr Moussa, Egypt's former foreign minister and chairman of the 50-member committee that drafted the new constitution, said: "Most of the liberal and leftist forces that rejected Article 7 said they have to consult first with their political partners before they give a final say on this contentious issue." "But I can say that all agreed that presidential elections must be held as soon as possible and that there must not be any further delay, because this negatively affects national security."
Mohamed El-Orabi, chairman of the Congress Party, said: "Most political representatives showed complete understanding of President Mansour's argument." "Some forces stressed presidential polls should be competitive, democratic and free and that state authorities must not be utilised to serve the agenda of a certain candidate," said Al-Orabi.
Another source said some politicians expressed fears that "state authorities would be utilised to serve Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi who said he will contest the polls."
Hala Shukrallah, chairwoman of the Constitution Party, said she seized the meeting with Mansour to alert his attention to "the interior ministry's consistent abuse of human rights, especially in the form of torturing revolutionary political activists who are currently serving jail terms for breaching the protest law." Shukrallah cited Mansour as vowing to oblige the interior ministry to abide by respect for human rights.
The meeting was attended by 14 political figures, with most of them chairmen of political parties, and Mansour's legal advisor, Ali Awad.
If Article 7 is deemed to have gained support, PEC would meet next Saturday and Sunday to set a date for registration for the presidential poll.