Shura Council Speaker Ahmed Fahmy has referred the Supreme Constitutional Court’s remarks on the House of Representatives elections bill and political rights bill to the upper house’s Committee on Constitutional and Legislative Affairs for a report.
The bills, which together form the legislation governing the upcoming elections for the lower house of parliament, were deemed unconstitutional by the court on Saturday, and sent back with remarks.
The three main problems it found with the bills lay in the division of voter districts, the lack of an explicit ban on the use of religious slogans in electoral campaigns, and the long-time ban on military and police personnel voting.
“We will amend the bills to ban all religious and ideological slogans,” Sobhy Saleh, MP representing the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, told state-owned Al-Ahram on Sunday.
Saleh earlier made a statement saying the Shura Council would amend the bills to adopt the court’s remarks before referring the bills to President Mohamed Morsi, rather than again to the Supreme Constitutional Court.
“We will not refer the bills back to the Supreme Constitutional Court because it is not our place to do so. President Morsi will decide what to do,” he said.
The Shura Council had already drafted two previous bills and submitted them to the court, which at the time had also deemed them unconstitutional and sent them back. The council adopted the changes but did not refer them back to the court for further review, instead sending the bill directly to Morsi, who signed it into law.
As a result, the Administrative Judiciary Court ruled to suspend the elections because the Supreme Constitutional Court did not have a chance to rule on the constitutionality of the final drafts. Morsi appealed and was turned down, and the Shura Council decided to draft new bills to expedite the process.
Saleh’s statement suggests the Shura Council intended to repeat the process and not refer the amended bills to court, risking further suspension of the elections. Saleh could not be reached for comment.
Shura Council Deputy Speaker and Salafi Nour Party MP Tarek Al-Sohry made contradictory statements, however, insisting the council would adopt all of the court’s suggested amendments and refer the bills back to it.
Parliamentary elections were initially scheduled for April and have been postponed several times due to the Shura Council’s failure to draft election laws deemed constitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
The Egyptian Social Democratic Party released a statement on Sunday claiming that the Shura Council was deliberately referring unconstitutional bills to the Supreme Constitutional Court in order to prolong its own existence.
The upper house of parliament possesses legislative authority only temporarily until the lower house is elected. While the Muslim Brotherhood currently has a majority in the Shura Council, they are not guaranteed to repeat that performance in the House of Representatives elections, which is motivation to prolong the Shura Council’s term as much as possible, the ESDP said.
“Why would the Brotherhood want a House of Representatives? They already have control over the executive and legislative branches.”