The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Egypt's legal mess

Recording the podcast earlier today, we realized we didn't want to clog up our airtime with long-winded discussion of some Egyptian legal developments that have taken place over the last few days. So this is a very summarized version of what has happened, with a few more links to other pieces for those interested.

On June 6, the Supreme Constitutional Court stated that the Political Election Committee overseeing the current presidential elections did not have the authority to refer to it anything, since it is not a judicial authority. In May, the PEC has decided not to disqualify Ahmed Shafiq from the race after parliament hastily passed a "political exclusion law" that withheld political rights from Mubarak-era senior officials. This has been interpreted various ways. For some, it means that the law should be applied and Shafiq will soon be disqualified, which would force fresh elections. For others, the court might still rule on the constitutionality of the law at its next session on June 14. Many legal scholars believe the law is unconstitutional.

In that same session, the court will also look the issue of whether the electoral decreed by SCAF last year for the parliamentary elections is constitutional. The argument against it is that the law should have not permitted members of political parties to contest the one-third of seats that are elected according to the single-constituency, simple-majority system rather than the party list system. These seats, in other words, should have been available exclusively to independent candidates. If this law is declared unconstitutional, then it is parliament that will be dissolved (or at least the one-third of seats concerned here.) This would be a major blow to the Islamists that dominate parliament, and to the Muslim Brothers in particular since they expected their parliamentary majority to win them the premiership and key cabinet posts.

All of this is to say that the situation is extremely confusing, since only two days before the second round of voting is supposed to take place, the elections could be cancelled. In fact, if parliament is dissolved as well, the transition would essentially go back to square one. It reinforces the perception that these are just bargaining chips in an elaborate game played by SCAF, which last week pressured political groups into agreeing on a new formula for the assembly that will write Egypt's next constitution.

Here are a few more links on this complex subject: