Wednesday 22 February 2012

UPDATED: Could This Egyptian Parliament Be Dissolved?

(Note: I apologise for not updating the blog much or writing new pieces recently due to work pressures. I have continued to remain engaged through twitter though, and I will be back to a more frequent writing schedule within 2 weeks. In response to multiple requests, I have jotted down this quick note to explain the matter of the possible dissolution of parliament. I am sorry for not having the time to properly edit this.)

In 1984, Egypt held its first parliamentary elections using the Proportional Representation system. Three years later, however, Egypt's High Constitutional court dissolved this parliament on the grounds that it violated the principle of "Equality Of Citizens" by not allowing non-party candidates from running in such elections. New elections took place that same year, and parliament was dissolved again in 1990 by the Constitutional Court which ruled that the updated proportional-representation system at the time was also unconstitutional.

This Monday, Egypt's High Administrative Court (HAC) ruled that the current system of election was in violation of the spirit of the Constitutional Declaration, in place since March 2011 after the January Revolution (the Declaration was drafted and enacted under SCAF leadership.) The justification was that allowing Party members to run for both Direct Election and Proportional Representation seats resulted in unfairness in opportunity for independent candidates, which in turn would violate the Constitutional Declaration. As I also understand, another point of contention (that might end up being less of a legal challenge however) was that the elections law says that "at least 50% of parliament" must be composed of workers and farmers, but did not set ceiling for their membership percentage. This also, in turn, would violate fairness of opportunity for candidates who were non-workers and non-farmers, it is said. The HAC then referred the question to the High Constitutional Court (HCC)  who is yet to issue a statement, but indications seem to point to the direction that the HCC would uphold the view of the High Administrative Court.

Now, it should be noted that (according to Tahrir Newspaper and others) this was only a summary judgment by the HAC, and that a more proper judgement is still needed and requires around one year. Even further, a proper judgement by the HCC could take possibly five years.

Before one considers the possible scenarios and ramifications, one much remember that it is still unclear whether or not this current parliament would actually continue for more than a several months. Some MPs state that this parliament should be dissolved as soon as the constitution is written and approved by referendum, which is the more solid argument in my opinion. Others disagree, and argue that that the new constitution could have special transition-focused articles that allow this parliament to serve a full 5-year term or any other special term it sees fit. If this parliament is indeed dissolved by the adoption of the new constitution, then the current debate over its constitutionality may not lead to its dissolution due to it simply no longer being in session in the first place. However, and that is a serious consideration, it could threaten the legal legitimacy of the constitution drafted under its reign, according to some. Alternatively, if the parliament ends up serving an extended period, this could lead to one of two scenarios, according to various articles:

1- (Overwhelming possibility) Parliament is eventually dissolved in its entirety.
2- (Some of the) members who were elected by the Direct Election system (i.e. single seats) could give up their parliamentary seats, possibly replaced by an as-of-yet-unknown mechanism (according to one writer.)

I will hold off on the analysis until further information and informed legal opinions find their way to us in the coming few days, which I would append to this piece or to a new one. But, in a sentence or two, what does this all mean though, setting aside all the legal jargon, analysis and legislative repercussions?

It means that Egypt's democratic transition seems to be continuing its slow-yet-steady transformation into the darkest and most absurd joke of the 21st century. Period.

(Post-Script: It was the HCC that insisted that elections take place using the one-third/two-thirds system to ensure constitutionality. Also, earlier drafts of the election law indeed only allowed non-Party members to run for the Direct Election seats, until pressures by political parties forced a change of this law to allow party candidates to stand for those seats as well. Some commentators at the time did warn that this might be in violation of the Constitutional Declaration. Existential nausea ensues.)

UPDATE: Judge Ahmed Mekky, former vice president of Egypt’s Court of Appeals, told Ahram Online he: 

does not see a problem in the fact that a parliament that could be considered unconstitutional would proceed with choosing members of the constituent assembly. "According to the law, if the HCC decides to dissolve Parliament and order fresh elections, the procedures and laws passed by this Parliament will only be considered void from the date on which the verdict is announced," he said. 
According to Mekky, even if the new Parliament is unconstitutional, the constituent assembly can nevertheless proceed with drafting a new constitution. 
"I hope the HCC won’t announce its verdict until the 100-member assembly is chosen and the new charter drafted," he said. "We really must put an end to the mess of the transitional period that began with the March referendum on constitutional amendments. Every step that we’ve taken since the SCAF assumed power could be legally questioned, so it’s better if we put an end to all this and consider the new constitution a fresh beginning.”

No comments:

Post a Comment