In a twist to Egypt’s already torturous process to vote on a new House of Representatives, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled Wednesday that the recently passed election law must be referred back to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). The court review will likely delay the upcoming elections, slated to start on April 22, and run over four rounds. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has said he will not challenge the court review. The news complicates the situation in an already tense Egypt, and is likely to create further tension by extending the uncertain transition to a new parliament.
The upcoming parliamentary vote was highly controversial from the start. The law was passed in the upper level of parliament, the Shura Council, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. The initial draft law was submitted to the SCC for legal review and sent back to the Shura Council with recommendations for changes, but critics charge that any changes which were made did not conform to the SCC’s recommendations. After announcing the dates of the election, President Mohamed Morsi was forced to change the date of the first round as it coincided with Easter. Later, the opposition National Salvation Front declared its intention to boycott the vote, further throwing into question the legitimacy of the process and nearly ensuring the next parliament would be dominated by Islamist parties.
It is difficult to say whether any changes in the election law will convince the opposition to contest the upcoming elections, as previous demands for their participation included a firing of the current government led by prime minister Hisham Qandil. This is just one of several other demands Morsi is unlikely to heed. However, the more time that passes before the elections, the more likely it is that some parties in the opposition will break ranks and decide to contest the election.
Neither the deteriorating situation in the canal cities or the economic crisis in Egypt will be solved by elections. However, this is a setback for President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are eager to see a new parliament sit and cement their eroding authority in Egypt. What the court decides next will be important, but will not settle the on-going political conflict in the country.