42. Political chaos in Egypt; Parliament dissolved, presidential elections continue

Article summary: 

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday, June 14th about two major political cases that had been brought before court:

  1. Were the past parliamentary elections constitutional?
  2. Is the Political Isolation Law Parliament passed valid? This law bans members of the former regime from participating in politics for ten years to come.
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The Court ruled that the seats reserved for independents (not party affiliated) in Parliament, one-third of all seats, are invalid and this means the entire parliament is invalid and thus cannot legislate. Since the election of the Parliament there have been continuous struggles between the Islamist dominated Parliament, the al-Janzūrī government that had been appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the SCAF itself. A major struggle concerned how to form the Constitutent Assembly; Islamists wanted the Islamist dominated Parliament to play a strong role in forming the 100 member Assembly while liberals, churches, Azhar and possibly also the SCAF wanted to see a composition with less Islamists and more people representing other factions in society.

It is unclear what this means for new Parliamentary elections. Will the electorate vote for 1/3 of the members or will all seats be open for new elections again? The Court ruled that that decision is left to the High Electoral Commission (www.elections.eg).

Since Parliament is dissolved, the court ruled that the Political Isolation Law Parliament had passed is invalid. Thus Ahmad Shafīq can go ahead in running for presidency in the coming elections. Since Egypt no longer has a Parliament all legislative functions of parliament have been referred to the SCAF.

The Political Isolation Law was passed because Egypt’s Islamist dominated parliament had been alarmed at the prospective of seeing Shafīq and others of the old regime return to power. Strangely enough this law was enacted by the SCAF in April, just one month before the presidential election, intending to bar anyone who served in a top position during the last 10 years of the Mubārak administration from holding public office for the next decade. The law banned Shafīq from the race, but the day after it was passed, Shafīq appealed to the High Electoral Comission and was immediately reinstated. The commission then referred the law to the Supreme Constitutional Court for review. Strange is that the court has not made an effort to rule within days after the law had been referred to them since it was obviously so crucial for the presidential elections. Perhaps ruling authorities had not expected a run off between Muhammad Mursī, candidate of the Freedom and Justice Party, and Ahmad Shafīq? It would have certainly been easier if 'Amr Mūsá or Hamadīn Sabāhī had been in the final runoff against Muhammad Mursī.

In February 2012, Egypt’s State Council referred the law that governed the parliamentary election to the Supreme Constitutional Court. Two-thirds of the seats were supposed to be filled by candidates running on political party lists and the other third by independent individuals. Egypt’s military rulers, under pressure from those who feared a return of wealthy ex-regime power brokers, had hastily changed the election law to let parties compete for the independent seats that members of the old guard were thought to be targeting.

It all appears the Court’s decision is therefore not only a legal decision but also a political decision. It is thus far not clear how the court has come to this ruling since the former Constitution was abolished by the SCAF after Mubārak had been forced to resign.

It is also strange the country is going for the last round in the presidential elections without having a new constitution that would define the powers of that president. It is obviously political chaos. There has been a lot of jostling between political powers in the country and decisions made that push the country in opposing directions.

Muslim Brothers said prior to the verdict that they would accept any court decision. But would the majority of Muslim Brothers indeed do so still now that the old powers appear to be returning to the ruling scene of the country?

Wā'il Hasan, legal advisor of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation, had just come back from a tourism promotional event in Luxor and had found it remarkable that former Mubārak officials were confident that Shafīq would come to power and with this, that their influence would increase again.

Islamists, both the Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brothers) and the Salafī el-Nur Party, have a lot to lose since they have been losing in the polls. It is widely expected that in upcoming elections they will not obtain a similarly large number of seats. If violence would break out between Islamists and Egypt’s security forces it would probably cost them even more votes since most Egyptians are totally fed-up with the ongoing clashes that have taken such a heavy toll on Egypt’s economy.

It is not surprising that there were tanks before the Supreme Constitutional Court on the Corniche in Ma'ādī where our office is. It greatly delayed traffic despite being less heavy than usual because many people would not take the risk of going by car into Ma'ādī. This is only a minor inconvenience. Most important is that the country will not witness violence. In my earlier article on the presidential elections I wrote that I hope that all factions in society, both Islamist and non-Islamist, will unite in building the country. The economy is in shambles. Rebuilding Egypt’s economy needs to be the focus instead of a continuous struggle between Islamists and non-Islamists.

Was the decision of the Supreme Constitutional Court desired by the SCAF? Many believe that the SCAF has been siding with the remains of the old regime but I am not so certain. Recently, CAWU board member Dr. Hudá 'Awad told me that she had met with a member of the SCAF who made it clear they were fed-up with the political jostling that had taken place in the past year. They obviously want to withdraw but they also had been challenged by the Islamist dominated parliament that wanted to exclude all former members of the Mubārak regime from returning to power again. Islamists were certainly not alone in this. A number of liberals supported them in this since they did not want the revolution to be for nothing.

The only conclusion can be that the revolution has pushed Egypt in a political chaos. It might take many years before political stability has returned.

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