President Mohamed Mursi’s decision to hold legislative elections starting next month was suspended by an Egyptian court, adding to turmoil since the 2011 uprising.
Judge Abdel Meguid el-Moqanan read the ruling in court yesterday after more than a dozen cases were filed contesting the legality of the elections law. The court also ordered that the law be referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court.
The ruling further complicates a transition process that’s already been marred by political squabbling and sporadic violence. It came as clashes continued in downtown Cairo and in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, where five people died this month in violence between protesters and security forces.
Mourad Ali, media adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which nominated Mursi for last year’s presidential vote, said: “We respect the rulings of the judiciary and we see no problem in referring the elections law to the constitutional court.” In comments posted on the party’s official Facebook page, he said they await the decision of the elections commission supervising the vote, adding that he doesn’t believe the party will appeal the ruling.
In its reasons for the ruling, the court said the upper house of parliament, which holds temporary legislative powers, should have returned the draft election law to the constitutional court to determine whether amendments met the court’s requirements, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.
“The court decision will definitely add to the uncertainty of the situation in Egypt, but we’re already in an uncertain situation,” Mona Mansour, chief economist at Cairo-based investment bank CI Capital, said by phone. “Unless there’s political unity, there will be no IMF loan,” she said. Political bickering has delayed Egypt’s bid to secure $4.8 billion from the International Monetary Fund.
Mursi will appeal the ruling, Al Arabiya television reported, citing an unnamed adviser to the head of state. The presidency later said in an e-mailed statement that it “fully respects” the court decision without saying whether it would appeal.
Egypt’s main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, has rejected Mursi’s plan to start the election next month, saying the country must first be stabilized. The bloc, which demands changes to the recently adopted constitution, has said it plans to boycott the vote. Mursi and his supporters have said the election is key to stabilizing the country
Mursi has cited the proximity of parliamentary elections to resist pressure from secular opponents and some Islamist allies for a national unity government.
The political divisions have spurred regular protests and clashes that have added to the difficulty of reviving an economy growing at its slowest pace in two decades.
The opposition accuses Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood of seeking to consolidate their own power at the expense of the national interest. His supporters say opposition protests obstruct stabilization efforts.
Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the Salvation Front, said after the ruling that the president and Brotherhood “wanted to rush the vote to distract people from the real economic problems and continue their power grab.”
Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said the court decision marks the latest confrontation between the presidency and the judiciary.
“I don’t think these face-offs between Mursi and the courts are going to stop any time soon,” he said. “The presidency is seeking to challenge the independence of the judiciary and dominate it like other state institutions.”
The Supreme Constitutional court has clashed repeatedly with Mursi since he came to power in June. The president has repeatedly said he respects the independence of the judiciary.
-- Editors: Francis Harris, Ben Holland
To contact the reporter on this story: Mariam Fam in Cairo at email@example.com; Salma El Wardany in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com