Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court struck down laws governing the election of the upper house of parliament and the panel that drafted a new constitution, though it stopped short of ordering the legislature dissolved.
The court said the Shura Council can remain in place until a new parliament is elected and convenes -- a vote that’s been delayed amid legal wrangling. The council’s lawmakers hold temporary legislative powers after a ruling last year led to the lower house being disbanded.
Today’s rulings, which fuel the political uncertainty that has compounded the country’s economic woes, came amid discussions in the Shura Council over a law to revamp the judiciary. That bill has outraged some judges who see it as an attempt by President Mohamed Mursi’s Islamist supporters to purge their ranks and bring in those supportive of their views.
“How can it be unconstitutional and yet we let it pass laws for the country?” Emad Gad, a former lawmaker in the dissolved parliament and deputy director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said by phone in reference to the Shura Council.
The rulings mark the latest challenge by the courts to Mursi’s backers, many of whom accuse the judiciary of being biased against them and stacked with loyalists from the era of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The decisions “don’t change anything on the ground,” Mourad Ali, media adviser for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said by phone. “Someone is pushing the judiciary to enter the political struggle and this is a very dangerous issue.”
“The people approved of the Constituent Assembly,” Ali said of the panel that drafted the new constitution, which was adopted in a referendum. “It doesn’t work then that the Constitutional Court says it’s illegal or unconstitutional.”
Mursi’s opponents have said Islamists dominated the assembly, criticizing its makeup as unrepresentative and alleging that the constitution it produced fails to protect freedoms and the rights of minorities.
“We’re looking into whether the ruling” on the assembly “will allow us to file cases arguing that the constitution itself is void,” Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front opposition bloc, said by phone.
Mursi’s critics, some of whom are calling for nationwide protests against him on June 30, accuse Islamists of seeking to dominate Egypt’s transition at the expense of national interests. His supporters say protests and legal challenges undermine efforts to stabilize the country.
Political bickering has delayed Egypt’s bid to secure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, which the government says is necessary to lure back investors and unlock other funds.
Mursi this year set April for the start of new elections. His plan was struck down by the courts. Mursi has since said he expects a parliamentary vote could be held in October.
“Back to square one,” opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Twitter after today’s rulings. “Consensus on new constitutional framework only way out.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Abdel Latif Wahba in Cairo at email@example.com; Mariam Fam in Cairo at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com