Egypt legal panel sides against Islamists before poll
Court rulings due two days before run-off
CAIRO — An Egyptian judicial body recommended on Wednesday that two crucial laws be overturned, allowing former president Hosni Mubarak’s prime minister to stand for election and possibly dissolving a parliament dominated by his Islamist foes.
The supreme court is due to rule on the laws on June 14, two days before a run-off parliamentary election between former premier Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi, the two candidates won the most votes in a first round in May.
The court’s decisions will be key in deciding how Egypt makes its difficult transition out of 60 years of military-backed rule.
It could overturn electoral laws on the basis of which the Islamist-dominated parliament was elected — possibly requiring parliament to dissolve — and could also overturn legislation that parliament passed in April to bar top Mubarak-era officials such as Shafiq from running for president.
The judicial body is known as the commissioners of the Supreme Constitutional Court, whose opinion is not binding on the court but is an indication of how the court might rule. The body came down against the Islamist-dominated parliament.
“The report of the commissioners of the Supreme Constitutional Court concluded that the provisions of the law of parliament are unconstitutional,” the state MENA news agency said.
“The report also concluded that the law of political isolation [affecting Shafiq] is also unconstitutional since it punishes the individual only on the basis of assuming public office and not evidence of political corruption,” MENA added.
The head of the Supreme Constitutional Court is Mubarak-era appointee Farouk Soltan, who also heads the presidential electoral committee overseeing presidential elections.
The military council which has run Egypt since last year is due to hand power to a new head of state on July 1 and the Shafiq-Mursi run-off offers voters a choice between a symbol of the secular Mubarak era and an Islamist group that he banned.
Seeking to derail presidential bids by some of Mubarak’s top aides, parliament approved the law on April 12 that stripped political rights from anyone who served in top government or ruling party posts in the last decade of Mubarak’s rule.
Islamist MPs initially drafted the law in response to a presidential bid by Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s vice-president, who was ruled out by the committee on different grounds.
The election committee disqualified Shafiq, but let him back into the race after he appealed, pending a ruling by the constitutional court on whether the April 12 law was valid. If the court follows Wednesday’s judicial opinion, he will be allowed to run.
Raising the spectre of dissolving parliament, the judicial panel sided with an administrative court which declared in February that rules governing last November’s parliamentary election were unconstitutional.
The system apportioned seats among individuals and political parties, allocating two-thirds to parties and the rest to individuals who were supposed to be independent of any party.
Yet those rules did not stop parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party from contesting the individual seats in the election that was completed in January.
The administrative court judge said political parties should not have been allowed to run for the seats reserved for individuals. He also said half rather than a third of the seats should have been apportioned to individuals.
Maher Sami, vice-president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, said the court would hear the case on June 14, the state news agency said.
Though he did not say a ruling would be issued, Sami said a judicial advisory panel asked to prepare a legal opinion had finished its report, implying a decision was likely.
The prospect of two all-important court rulings just before the presidential run-off typifies the drama and uncertainty of the transition from military to civilian rule that has been punctuated by spasms of violence and legal confusion.