Egypt court ruling a "military coup"
Published Thursday, June 14, 2012
A leading Egyptian politician on Thursday declared the country's military to be carrying out a "coup," after the constitutional court ruled parliament should be dissolved and backed a former military officer's bid for presidency.
Egypt's top court ruled that one third of parliamentary seats elected on a first-past-the-post system were invalid, with sources later confirming that the decision meant the entire lower house of parliament would be dissolved.
In a separate ruling the same court gave ex-military officer Ahmed Shafik the green light to run for president as it ruled against a law that would have thrown him out of the race.
The decisions, just two days before the landmark presidential election to choose a successor for former dictator Hosni Mubarak, could lead to further political turmoil in the country and strengthen the position of the ruling Security Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
Leading opposition figure Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh said the decisions were part of a "coup" by SCAF.
"Keeping the SCAF candidate (Shafik) and removing the elected people's parliament after giving SCAF the judicial green light is nothing less than a coup," he said.
"I don't believe that millions of young people will accept it."
A senior Muslim Brotherhood politician said the country would enter "a dark tunnel" if the parliament was dissolved.
"If parliament is dissolved, the country will enter a dark tunnel - the coming president will face neither a parliament nor a constitution," Essam el-Erian, vice chairman of the Brotherhood's political wing, said. "There is a state of confusion and many questions."
The ruling military decided on a complex electoral system in which voters cast ballots for party lists which made up two thirds of parliament and also for individual candidates for the remaining seats in the lower house.
The individual candidates were meant to be "independents" but members of political parties were subsequently allowed to run, giving the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party an advantage.
That decision was challenged in court.
Parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni, an Islamist, said before the ruling that the house would have to consider how to implement the decision.
In the absence of a constitution, suspended after last year's overthrow of president Mubarak, no authority has the right to dissolve parliament, Katatni said.
The decision to allow Shafik to run was less of a surprise than the dissolution of parliament, despite a law which bars senior officials of the Mubarak regime and top members of his now-dissolved National Democratic Party from running for public office for 10 years.
The law applies to those who served in the 10 years prior to Mubarak's ouster on 11 February 2011 after a popular uprising.
Shafik will now face Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi in a presidential runoff on Saturday.
The former Mubarak-era prime minister welcomed the decision as "historic."
"The message of this historic verdict is that the era of political score settling has ended," Shafik told cheering supporters in Cairo.
"The constitutional court has confirmed my right to participate in the election and reinforced the legitimacy of this election."
Shafik was initially disqualified from standing in the election in accordance with the law passed by the parliament in April.
But in late April the electoral commission accepted an appeal from Shafik against his disqualification and the case was referred to the court.
In the first round of voting on May 23 and 24 – which saw 13 candidates compete for the top job – Mursi won 24.7 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of Shafik's 23.6 percent.
The next president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the uprising and its sometimes deadly aftermath, but his powers are yet to be defined by a new constitution.
(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)