Egypt Court Rules Shura Council Unconstitutional in Major Blow to Brotherhood [Middle East Online]

June 2, 2013

Jailan Zayan

Supreme Constitutional Court invalidates Egypt’s Islamist-dominated Senate, panel that drafted country’s constitution.

Egypt’s highest court on Sunday invalidated the Islamist-dominated Senate and a panel that drafted the constitution, throwing the country into fresh political uncertainty.

The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) said the law governing the elections of the Shura Council was unconstitutional, as were the rules for the selection of the members of a committee that drafted the constitution.

Presiding Judge Maher al-Beheiry said that the Shura Council should remain in place until the election of a new parliament.

It was not immediately clear whether the Shura Council would continue to legislate during this time.

Some judicial sources said the Shura Council, a historically powerless body which was thrust into a legislative role when parliament was dissolved, now has no authority to make laws.

But others say the body’s powers will be restricted to issuing legislation governing the next elections.

As for the constitution, it will remain in place because it was adopted by a popular referendum, judicial sources said.

Despite the uncertainty over its impact, Sunday’s ruling it will cast a dark shadow over the legitimacy of the Shura Council and the constitutional panel, which were touted by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi as shining examples of Egypt’s new democracy.

The constitution was at the heart of a bitter conflict between Morsi’s mainly Islamist supporters and his opponents who slammed the text for failing to represent all Egyptians and stifling freedoms.

The conflict had spilled out onto the streets causing the worst political polarisation since the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

“The decision seems to be what you get when the legal and political realms have become so intertwined with each other – a result of bad law and bad politics,” said H.A. Hellyer, Fellow specialising in Egyptian politics at the Brookings Institution.

The SCC “issued a decision that met the political realities half way,” Hellyer said.

The case against the Shura Council is based on several challenges by lawyers of the law that governed the election of its members.

Both the upper and lower houses were elected under the same electoral law, which the SCC last year deemed invalid, prompting the dissolution of parliament.

Ahmed Ramy, spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party — the political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood — said the party was still studying the impact of the ruling.

But he said he believes the Shura Council should continue with its work “so as not to create a legislative vacuum.”

But others disagree.

“The ruling means that the Senate must abstain from passing any law, because these laws would be contested,” said Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, professor of political science at Cairo University.

“The fact that it remains in place is a conciliatory gesture,” he said.

The ruling creates a crisis for Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyed said, “because they wanted to use the Senate to pass several laws that they feel they could not in a new parliament.”

Source: Middle East Online

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