Last updated: 1 March, 2015

Egypt court ruling threatens election timetable

Egypt’s electoral commission said Sunday it is preparing a new timetable for parliamentary polls, delaying the March 21 vote after a court ruled parts of the election law unconstitutional.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered that the law be redrafted within a month and asked that “legal measures be undertaken to avoid delaying” the election, his office said.

The constitutional court ruled that sections of the law on the division of electoral districts were unconstitutional.

The commission said in a statement the section of the law deemed unconstitutional would be revised and then “there will be a new timetable for the procedures” for the election.

“It will certainly not take place on March 21,” commission spokesman Omar Marwan told AFP after the panel met.

He said he did not yet know when the election would take place.

The administrative court, which rules on state-related matters, must still formally rule on delaying the poll currently scheduled to end on May 7.

Lawyers who appealed against the law had said it failed to divide districts in a way that would adequately represent the electorate.

“The election will be delayed and the process will have to start from the beginning,” lawyer Mohamed Abdel Wahhab told AFP.

– Sisi loyalists to dominate –

The election would be the first for a new parliament since former army chief Sisi overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

After Morsi’s ouster, Sisi announced plans for a new constitution, to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections.

A new charter was adopted in January 2014 and Sisi was elected president in May.

The same court had dissolved the previous Islamist-dominated parliament, which was elected after the 2011 uprising that forced longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak from power.

It ruled that parts of the law under which it was elected were unconstitutional.

That decision granted broad legislative powers to the president in the absence of an assembly, and Sisi decreed the new electoral law.

Britain’s minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, expressed concern over the delay in the election.

“I encourage all relevant institutions in Egypt to take the necessary steps to hold free and constitutional parliamentary elections as soon as possible and to complete the road map announced in July 2013,” he said in a statement.

The election is to be held under a complex system that is supposed to produce a representative parliament.

Twenty-seven of the assembly’s 567 seats are to be filled directly by the president, with the rest contested through party lists or on an individual basis.

Critics say that with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood having been crushed and outlawed, the elections are likely to be dominated by Sisi loyalists.

The elections are important to Sisi as he seeks to shore up his standing in the eyes of Western governments that condemned his overthrow of Morsi — the country’s first freely elected leader.

A government crackdown overseen by Sisi and targeting the Brotherhood has left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.

Even secular and liberal activists, including several who played a prominent role in the 2011 revolt against Mubarak, have been jailed for holding unauthorised protests.