Egypt readies for historic run-off presidential elections to decide who will be the country’s first freely-elected president. However the election is overshadowed by the controversial rulings of the Constitutional Court
Egyptian soldiers stand guard outside the Constitutional Court. The top court’s rulings are heavily criticized. EPA photo
Egypt is holding run-off presidential elections this weekend, 16 months after Hosni Mubarak was ousted from the presidential post, but the election is overshadowed by the decision of a top court to order Parliament dissolved and allow for a disputed candidate to remain in the race.
Two days before the landmark vote, the Supreme Constitutional Court, a body of 18 judges appointed mostly during Mubarak’s regime, ruled certain articles in the law governing parliamentary elections to be invalid, thus annulling the Parliament. The court also upheld the right of Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, to run for president. The decision effectively erased the progress from Egypt’s troubled transition in the past year, leaving the country with no Parliament and concentrating power even more firmly in the hands of the generals who took over from Mubarak. Military rulers said the two-day run-off between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and Mubarak ally Shafiq will begin as scheduled on June 16.
Less than half of Egypt’s 50 million eligible voters turned out for the first round of the presidential vote in May. This time, the turnout could be less due to the people’s anger having reached its peak with the latest rulings.Religious duty for Muslims
Meanwhile, the chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, said participation in the elections was a binding religious duty for Muslims (farz) and announced that it would be illicit (haram) for people not to take a side. He also issued a fatwa saying that supporting Shafiq meant supporting cruelty. The race has already polarized the nation between those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq’s leadership, and those wanting to keep religion out of politics and have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of monopolizing power since last year’s revolt. This time protests might not only be bigger, but also more violent. Shafiq vowed to do his best for reaching a “civil state for all the Egyptians,” to be based on development and protection of borders. Brotherhood’s Morsi said a foul play in the election would be met by “a huge revolution.”