Court ruling brings Egypt's constitutional crisis to climax

News article, posted 04.21.2012, from Egypt, in:
Court ruling brings Egypt's constitutional crisis to climax (Photo: Reuters)

The Supreme Administrative Court on Tuesday suspended Egypt's Constituent Assembly – tasked with drafting a new national charter – after ruling in favour of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 100-member assembly. The case has now been referred to the State Council, which has the authority to refer it to Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

Judge Mahmoud El-Attar, deputy chairman of the State Council, has stated that judicial authorities were not eligible to oversee parliamentary activity. "However, the Constituent Assembly isn't seen as parliamentary activity, but rather administrative. Therefore, it must remain under control of the judiciary control," he explained.

Many of the complaints made against the Constituent Assembly claimed the selection process violated Article 60 of the constitutional declaration– issued in March of last year by Egypt's ruling military council and approved via popular referendum. However, Article 60 does not state how the 100-member assembly should be assembled.

The article merely stipulates that elected MPs "convene...within six months of the parliamentary elections to elect a constituent assembly composed of one hundred members, to be tasked with preparing a new draft constitution within six months of its formation."

But El-Attar contends that, even if this were legally possible, "it is unacceptable for MPs to elect themselves" to the constitution-drafting body. "That's one of the reasons why the Supreme Administrative Court suspended the assembly," he said. "What's more, MPs don't have the right to act against the court's decision unless they file an appeal."

El-Attar went on to say that, while it was legal to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Administrative Court, the Constituent Assembly's activities must nevertheless be suspended pending a final decision on the issue.

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