April 24, 2014

PA reconvenes for 15 minutes

File: Egypt's PA reconvened briefly Tuesday in the absence of most liberal MPs.

BY HEBA HESHAM

Cairo: Within 15 minutes of convening a controversial parliamentary session, PA Speaker Saad El-Katatny adjourned following a decision to refer a Supreme Constitutional Court’s (SCC) ruling dissolving parliament to the Cassation Court for a final verdict on the status of the legislative body.The election law regulating last year’s parliamentary elections was deemed unconstitutional by the SCC last month and the military council dissolved the parliament accordingly. On Sunday, President Mohamed Morsi reversed the military decision and called on the parliament to reconvene until early elections within 60 days of the approval of the new constitution in a public referendum.Tuesday’s session was boycotted by a number of liberal and leftist parties and independent MPs.

The PA speaker said the parliament respects the judicial verdicts adding that it will only discuss the application mechanisms of the SCC ruling, which deemed four articles of the parliament law unconstitutional for allowing political parties to field candidates to contest seats allocated to non-partisan individuals.

The referral of the ruling to the Court of Cassation is based on Article 40 of the constitutional decree that designates the court with the authority to rule on the validity of the parliamentarians’ membership.

In parliament on Tuesday, MP Saad El-Hosainy, head of the budget and planning committee, was carrying the documents to be filed in court. Member of the Freedom and Justice Party, he stressed that the application of the SCC ruling was restricted to a third of the MPs, ridiculing the argument through which the SCC recommended the dissolution of the entire PA in the explanation it gave later.

Mixed reactions

Outside the parliament building tens of supporters cheered the MPs after the brief session. On the other side of the street a smaller group of protesters stood in the shade chanting in support of the dissolution of parliament.

Constitutional and legal experts disagreed in their analyses of the presidential decree: some considered it the right of the president to use his powers to order the return of parliament and considering it a violation of the provisions of the judiciary.

On the other hand, the presidency said the reversal of the military council’s decision and ordering early elections do not contradict or violate the SCC’s decision.

The SCC said its decisions are final and not subject to appeal and that these provisions of constitutional interpretation are binding to all state authorities.

“The SCC is not party to any political conflict, but will uphold its role to protect constitutional texts and will prevent any violation to them,” the statement added.

MPs that attended Tuesday’s session said that part of respecting the three estates of a democracy is ensuring that the judiciary does not have the authority to dissolve the legislature.

Al-Wafd Party MP Ahmed Attalla, who attended the session in defiance of his party’s decision to boycott, described the ruling as “skewed and politicized.” He said Morsi exercised his authority to choose from conflicting legal opinions.

Mohamed El-Sadat, head of the human rights committee in parliament, criticized the MPs that boycotted the session. El-Sadat and other MPs with several affiliations dismissed the boycott as partisan disagreements. “The Islamists have [electoral] majority whether we like them or not. We have to face reality,” he said.

He defended his decision to attend Tuesday’s session. “I have a responsibility to the people that elected me,” he said outside the chamber.

President challenges SCAF’s decision

At the heart of the debate rejecting Morsi’s decision are concerns that the new president does not respect the law, regardless of how those critics feel about the SCC ruling. Politicians and analysts on the other side see that the military has already trampled the law and Morsi just reversed it.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a supplementary constitutional declaration, broadening its powers just hours before the preliminary results of the presidential election, and three days after dissolving parliament.

It has billed it as a document merely intended to fill the legislative hole since the parliamentary elections were declared unconstitutional by the SCC. SCAF later dissolved parliament based on the verdict.

SCAF held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the presidential decree. In a statement on Monday, it said that its resolution No. 350 for 2012 is an executive decision that implements the SCC ruling invalidating parliament since its election.

The statement added that the constitutional declaration issued on June 17 was triggered by a legal and constitutional necessity and by the overall political climate to set the functions and duties of the state institutions and SCAF until the drafting of the new constitution. “We are confident that all state institutions will respect all constitutional declarations,” it said.

SCAF also denied rumors that it made a deal with the presidency to allow the reinstatement of parliament.

Presidency vs. judiciary

According to a statement by the presidency there is no dispute with the judiciary over the presidential decree to reinstate parliament pending early elections.

But head of the judges club Ahmed El-Zend had another view. After an emergency meeting, El-Zend said that judges would give Morsi a 36-hour ultimatum to withdraw his decision. He added that the president should clearly and explicitly apologize to the judges and the Egyptian people for his defiance of the judicial authority and his violation of the SCC ruling.

If Morsi does not meet these demands there will be more painful decisions by the judiciary that will be announced in due course, El-Zend threatened.

FJP MP El-Hosainy expressed shock at El-Zend’s statements, specifically criticizing El-Zend’s accusations of Morsi’s agency to the US.

Interim spokesman of the presidency Yasser Ali said that the president’s decision respects the SCC ruling as well as the main interests of the country and expressed the will of 30 million Egyptians who participated in the last parliamentary elections.

The Administrative Court on Tuesday postponed 17 challenges to the decision to reinstate parliament. The appeals were filed by a number of politicians lead by MP Abul Ezz El-Hariry, who had initiated the original case against the electoral law.

The claimants said that the presidential decree violates the provisions of the SCC, adding that it is a violation of the state of law and the constitution that Morsi swore to protect. They added that it infringes Article 49 of the Constitutional Court Act, which emphasized that the court’s judgments are binding on all state authorities.

Waiting for the court rulings, politicians expressed concern about the repercussions of the decision on the stability of the country. -Additional reporting by Sarah El Sirgany

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