Egypt court rules Senate, constitution panel invalid

Egypt court rules Senate, constitution panel invalid

Egypt court rules Senate, constitution panel invalid

Riot police form a cordon as several thousand supporters of President Mohamed Morsi surround the Supreme Constitutional Court in this 2012 photo. AP photo

Egypt’s highest court invalidated today 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.

Prolong polarization

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, the ruling it will cast a dark shadow over the legitimacy of the Shura Council and the constitutional panel, which were touted by 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. Regardless of their consequences on the ground, the ruling is likely to prolong the polarizing political transition that followed Mubarak’s overthrow. Rival political groups disagree not just on policies but on the legitimacy of the basic institutions of government as well as the future course of the nation.

It will give heart to the mostly secular and liberal opposition, while providing fresh ammunition to the argument often repeated by the president’s supporters that the judiciary is filled with Mubarak loyalists determined to derail the nation’s political process.