The election of the head of the Bar Association has taken a competitive turn with 10 candidates registered by the time the registration window closed. The election is scheduled for 4 September, with the winner serving a four-year term as head of the syndicate.
Sameh Ashour, a Nasserist politician and appointed member of the Senate, is among the favourites. Ashour, who served three terms as head of the syndicate between 2001 and 2020, had to resign from the Senate in order to be eligible to stand in the election and says that, if elected, he “will focus on building the National Academy of Lawyers to be responsible for providing lawyers with essential training”.
When in office, Ashour repeatedly clashed with Muslim Brotherhood members who formed a majority on the syndicate’s board.
Ashour said in a TV interview that he was a great supporter of 2013’s 30 June Revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood and vowed to keep the Bar Association free of Islamist elements.
On 16 July Ashour tweeted that he was against the syndicate becoming involved in politics, saying its role “is to serve the interests of lawyers and improve their living conditions, not to exercise politics and take sides”.
Among Ashour’s rivals is Montasser Al-Zayat, a high-profile lawyer with a record of defending Islamist detainees. Al-Zayat told the media on Sunday that if elected he would do his best to ensure the syndicate does not turn into a mouthpiece of any political force or party.
Al-Zayat accused Ashour of raising impractical slogans, claiming that while he had no glib slogans to offer, those who voted for him would be voting for “an independent and strong syndicate”.
Al-Zayat, 66, was arrested in 1981 along with hundreds of others following the assassination of president Anwar Al-Sadat. He was detained for three years without trial.
Al-Zayat’s former clients include Ayman Al-Zawahri, leader of Al-Qaeda since 2011, and he is the author of the book Ayman Al-Zawahri as I Knew Him, as well as Safwat Abdel-Halim, the Gamaa Islamiya member convicted of killing Rifaat Al-Mahgoub, the former speaker of parliament, in 1990.
The remaining eight candidates are Omar Haridi, Abdel-Halim Allam, Nabil Abdel-Salam, Ashraf Fateh Al-Bab, Mohamed Ragab Al-Bardisi, Farag Ashour, Osama Darwish, and Ibrahim Abdel-Maaboud.
Magdi Sakhi, acting head of the Bar Association, said the election will be held under judicial supervision with “judges affiliated with the Administrative Prosecution and the State Cases Authority in charge of supervising the vote.”
An initial list of candidates is due to be declared on 22 July.
“Appeals can be filed against the initial list before 26 July, and on 30 July a final list of candidates will be declared,” said Sakhi. “Election campaigns will occupy most of August, the vote will be held on 4 September, and if run-off proves necessary it will take place on 11 September.”
The last time the Bar Association held an election was in 2020 when Ragaai Attia, head of the Arab Lawyers’ Union and a prominent thinker, won. The current vote was sparked following Attia’s death in March, at the age of 84, while attending a court session.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 July, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.