Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) took two decisions on Thursday that effectively changed the political landscape and created a kind of constitutional labyrinth. It ruled that a third of parliament is unconstitutional (which effectively dissolves Parliament and returns legislative powers to the military) and it affirmed the legality of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq’s bid to the presidency.
The newspaper Egypt Independent wrote the following, which I quote at some length as it describes the situation quite well:
In a much anticipated court session, the SCC deemed the Parliamentary Elections Law unconstitutional, under which an Islamist-dominated Parliament was elected earlier this year. The court based its ruling on the law’s failure to ensure independent and party candidates equal opportunities. While parties were allowed to run for all contested seats, the bid of independent parliamentary hopefuls was restricted to only one-third of the seats. (...)
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court. (Photo Virginie Nguyen/Egypt Independent). After the reading of the decisions some fights broke out, outside the building.
According to Hossam Issa, a law professor at Ain Shams University, the verdict means that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces shall assume legislative powers until Parliament is reelected. Issa dropped a bombshell by arguing that the presidential election set for this weekend should be postponed until Parliament is reelected. “According to the Constitutional Declaration, the parliamentary elections must precede the presidential election,” he told Egypt Independent. However, SCC head Farouk Sultan told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the ruling would not affect the upcoming presidential runoff slated for Saturday and Sunday.
The fate of the newly formed Constituent Assembly, elected by Parliament on Tuesday and tasked with writing the new constitution, is also up in the air. According to Rafaat Fouda, a constitutional law professor at Cairo University, the ruling would lead to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, because “it includes members of Parliament that has now been dissolved.”
Several secular parties had withdrawn from the Constituent Assembly on grounds that it is dominated by Islamists. The State Council is currently looking into the legality of the assembly. (Egypt Independt remarks that a ruling of this kind is not new. The Egyptian Parliament was dissolved twice in 1987 and 1990 after SCC verdicts that deemed election regulations unconstitutional).
In the same session on Thursday, the SCC also declared the Political Isolation Law, which bars high-ranking officials of Mubarak’s regime from running for public office, unconstitutional. Based on this verdict, Ahmad Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister and former commander of Egypt’s air forces, is entitled to compete in the presidential runoff against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy.
Parliament had passed the Political Isolation Law only a few weeks ahead of the presidential poll in a last-minute attempt to exclude Mubarak regime stalwarts. However, the Presidential Election Commission refused to enforce the law against Shafiq and referred it to the SCC. (....)
For some observers, today’s verdicts attest to a coup d’état whereby the SCAF seeks to retain the helm of the state almost two weeks before the deadline set for the transfer of power to civilians.
“This is a hard coup d’état with a constitutional mask,” said Saif Eddin Abdel Fattah, a political science professor with Cairo University. “This is a betrayal of the revolution on the SCAF’s part. Revolutionary forces will not stay silent.” (....)
Abdel Fattah insisted that Morsy should withdraw from the upcoming runoff. “We should not bestow legitimacy on elections run by the generals. This election will bring Shafiq to power despite all of us,” he said.
“The martial laws announced [yesterday] by the justice minister and today’s SCC verdicts imply a full coup d’état. Hence, we cannot expect Morsy to win the election in this situation,” he added, referring to a recent government decision to grant military police and military intelligence the right to arrest civilians.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood has already announced that Morsy will continue in the race.