Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi delivers a speech to the Shura Council, or upper house of parliament, in Cairo. Photo by Reuters
Egypt's highest court is to examine the legitimacy of the
upper house of parliament, a case likely to increase the
legal uncertainty of the country's political transition and
leave it without a legislature.
The Supreme Constitutional Court has already forced the lower
house to dissolve under a June ruling that said an electoral
law used to elect both chambers - and which resulted in an
Islamist dominated parliament - was unfair.
The new case once again pits independent lawyers against the
Islamists that have come to power since the downfall of Hosni
Mubarak and who see the court as stuffed with the former
On Sunday (local time), at its first session since going on
strike over President Mohamed Mursi's decision to expand his
powers, the court set January 15 as the date for the first
hearing. It will also examine the legitimacy of the
Islamist-dominated assembly that wrote the constitution that
Mursi fast-tracked to approval at a referendum this month.
If the court rules against the upper house - which seems
likely as it was elected under the same law that the court
found lacking in the lower house case in June - Egypt will
have a legislative vacuum until new parliamentary elections,
expected to start in about two months.
The upper house assumed legislative powers just last week
under the new constitution.
The June ruling said the transitional electoral law - drafted
by the generals then ruling post-Mubarak Egypt in
consultation with political parties - gave too much power to
parties, at the expense of independent candidates.
The court had to postpone the hearings from early December
due to a protest outside its building by Islamists.
"The (court) renews its condemnation of those who
participated in it, as well as those who remained silent,"
the court said in a statement.
Mursi had shielded both the assembly which drafted the
constitution and the upper house of parliament from legal
challenges in a decree he issued in November which touched
off protests by critics who accused him of a power grab.
Mursi revoked the decree ahead of the referendum in which the
constitution was approved by 64 percent of those who voted.
The new constitution cut the number of judges who sit in the
Supreme Constitutional Court to 11 from 18. One of Mursi's
most vocal critics was among the judges to leave the court.