Egypt’s Constitutional Court has declared that at least one-third of the legislators elected during the three month parliamentary election process were unconstitutionally seated. It has ordered the parliament dissolved just one week before the presidential elections. They also declared that a law passed by the parliament last month, the Political Exclusion Law, was also unconstitutional. The law forbid any member of the former Mubarak regime running for political office for a period of ten years.
All Hell broke loose in Cairo.
The Court were all appointed by the former President Hosni Mubarak, which has led to expected accusations of prejudice in any court case involving the creation of a new government.
Since Mubarak was removed from office 16 months ago, the country has been run by a military council that was agreed to by most of the protesters to act as a transitional government to keep the country going while Egyptians remade their government. There was a structure for holding elections, but there were barriers to political parties which effectively made the country a one-party state. The military council has had an uneven record of running the country. They have not been able to control the rise of sectarian attacks and attacks on non-Muslims. These were things that the Mubarak regime had controlled for thirty years, and Mubarak’s regime had kept Egypt diverse and secular. And they have not been able to make the political climate reasonably stable. There are too many “political parties” and the one with the best organization is one that was banned for decades in Egypt – the Muslim Brotherhood.
Okay, why did they rule the parliamentary election was unconstitutional? This gets a little complicated. There are 508 seats in the Egyptian parliament. Ten of them are appointed by the President. Then, 332 of them are selected by the voters choosing a party, not a candidate. The final 166 are supposed to be individual races in which individual persons are running for a seat. But, most of the people who ran for those 166 seats were also on the “party lists” for the other 332 seats, and that is a violation of the constitution. It’s double-candidacy. The Constitutional Court was upholding lower court rulings in lawsuits brought by citizens who recognized that the system had been rigged.
And the way it was rigged may have benefitted the Muslim Brotherhood, which took the majority of seats in the parliament.
This parliament was supposed to be the second phase of the transition from Mubarak’s regime. First was the military council, then there would be a parliament charged with the responsibility of writing a new constitution. After the new constitution was written and ratified, there would be new elections for a completely new government. The country is deeply divided over the new constitution, with the full spectrum of advocacy from those who want a completely secular country to those who want extreme Sharia governance.
Last month, it was a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament that wrote the law that would bar any former Mubarak regime member from public office for ten years. They passed the law just before the first round in the Presidential election on May 23-24 to cut off two former Mubarak regime members from the election. Now, the court has told them that they cannot use this law, which violates whatever civil rights exist in the country, to elect their candidate by default.