Friday, April 13, 2012

Egypt: candidates in or out, and the constitutionial assembly in limbo

It is time to list some important developments in relation to Egypt's forthcoming presidential election and the making of a new constitution:

1) The Egyptian parliament's decision to approve a law that bans members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's regime from standing for public office. The parliament decided this on Thursday by adopting an amendment to the political activity law that "bars any president, vice president, prime minister or leader or (senior member) of the dissolved National Democratic Party from exercising political rights for 10 years."  The law was adopted quite fast after former intelligence chief, and short lived vice-president under Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, put forward his candidacy for the presidency. The new law would effectively bar this former torture master and faithful aide to the former president, from returning to the political stage. However, the law still needs to be ratified by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). 

Hazem Salah Abu Ismail (Al-Ahram)
2) The surprise decision by an Egyptian judge that there is not enough proof that the mother of candidate Hazem Abu Ismail had the American nationality. Earlier the Foreign ministry issued a declaration that the mother of Abu Ismail, a lawyer and a fairly popular Salafist candidate, obtained an American passport shortly before her death. If proved this could effectively bar Abu Ismail from participating in the elections as the law stipulates that a presidential candidate must have only one nationality, the Egyptian one,  and be born from parents with only the Egyptian nationality. The judge's decision, which was cheered by a crowd of thousands of Abu Ismails' supporters, is not the final word, however. The judge of the State Council merely ruled that the Interior ministry now has to come forward with a document stating that Abu Ismail's mother was Egyptian and nothing else.

3) Not only  Abu Ismail's candidacy is in doubt, also the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater is not sure that his candidacy will be approved. His case is still pending in an administrative court, that has to rule whether he qualifies in spite of the fact that six years ago, under Mubarak, he was convicted of 'money laundering and contacts with an illegal group' (i.c. the Muslim Brotherhood). The Brotherhood has named Mohammed Mursi as a 'spare' candidate in case the candidacy of Al-Shater will be barred.    

Amr Moussa
4) In the meantime the Ahram Strategic Center published the outcome of an April survey concerning the most popular candiates. Mubarak's foreign minister and former Arab League chief, Amr Moussa, remained on top with 30.7 percent. This is down only 1.2 percent from last month, when Moussa secured 31.5 percent. Salafist Abu-Ismail remained in second place, with 28.8 percent, improving on last month when he received 22.7 percent. (Questioned about their second choices, the supporters of Abu-Ismail said that if he withdrew from the race, 32 percent would vote for Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, and 29.3 percent for Amr Moussa,  the rest would vote for others).
Apart for that Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who is a 'liberal islamist'' and a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, came third this week, two steps ahead of last week, with 8.5 per cent. Mubarak's right-hand man, Omar Suleiman came next with 8.2 percent, down from 9.3 percent last month.   
Surprisingly, Khairat El-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate scored only 1.7 percent.   

5) A highly remarkable development was that the High Administrative Court on Tuesday blocked Egypt's constituent assembly after ruling in favour of a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the formation of this 100-member body. 
 The case was referred to the Commissioner's Office at State Council, which would then have the authority to move the lawsuit to Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).
The lawsuit against the way the assembly had been formed had been filed by a number of prominent lawyers, including Gad Nasser, professor of constitutional law at Cairo University, Mohamed Shehata, head of the Arab Centre for Transparency and Integrity, Sameh Ashour, the head of the Lawyers' Syndicate and presidential hopeful Khaled Ali. They reasoned that the assembly, which consists for 50% of  members chosen from parliament, cannot be elected in this way as it is impossible for members of parliament to elect  themselves according to a 1994 SCC ruling.
The Islamist-dominated parliament voted on 17 March to allocate 50 seats in the assembly to Members of Parliament (MP) as well as allowing MPs to choose the remaining half from outside the legislative body.
The final member list sparked uproar after it appeared  that Islamists had secured over 65 per cent of the assembly seats.After that all the liberal and leftist representatives walked out, as well as members of Egypt's official Islamic authority, Al-Azhar, and the Coptic Curch.

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