On Thursday, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court issued an important ruling, deciding that former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq can run in the second round of the presidential elections and one-third of the seats in parliament were chosen on an unconstitutional basis. The ruling means that the presidential elections, slated to be held in Egypt on Saturday and Sunday, will go ahead as planned. Parliament in its entirety will most likely be dissolved and the second iteration of the Constituent Assembly, tasked with creating Egypt’s new constitution, is likely to be disbanded as well. There are several winners and losers, with the military the big winner and the Muslim Brotherhood as the big loser.
The biggest winner from the ruling is of course Shafiq and the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces). Now that that the court has ruled the Political Isolation Law, which would have barred him from running in the presidential election, is unconstitutional, there appears little in the way to legally stop him from running in the second round. With regards to SCAF, after the announcement that the military will be allowed to arrest civilians, and with SCAF now obtaining parliament’s powers and with SCAF essentially becoming the arbitrator to get a third Constituent Assembly created, the SCAF holds nearly all of the cards. The court system itself is also a winner, as even though there were fights outside the court after the ruling, most political groupings accepted the ruling.
Liberal and secular forces also appear to be winners from the ruling. For the second time, liberals and leftists walked out from the creation of the Constituent Assembly amid claims that Islamists were again dominating the assembly. If the assembly is dissolved, as expected, it will put further pressure on Islamists to create a consensus with liberal forces in creating a third assembly. Now that liberal groups have had time to organize their parties, and with the success of Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahi in the first round of presidential elections, and severe criticism over the Muslim Brotherhood’s lack of results in parliament, it is likely that secular and liberal parties will fare better in another round of parliamentary elections. Smaller Islamist groups, such as al-Gama’a al-Islamiyah’s Building and Development Party, will likely also gain seats at the expense of the Muslim Brotherhood, as they have also had time to organize and consolidate their base.
The big losers from the decision are the Muslim Brotherhood. Whether fair or not, their lack of performance in parliament and their inability to deal with a multitude of issues in Egypt, whether a fuel crisis, a diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia, or fix economic issues in the country has eroded support for the organization. Now that their attempts to head a Constituent Assembly have been dashed for a second time, and their immediate control of parliament gone (although they will likely remain the largest party in another parliamentary election), they are reliant on getting their presidential candidate, Mohammed Morsi, to victory. The organization was already unpleasantly surprised when he received only a quarter of the votes in the first round and a loss would further question why they spent a lot of political capital on running a candidate after repeated claims they would not contest the presidential election. The other losers are pro-revolution forces, who for the time being have been sidelined from the political process.
Last, it is hard to tell whether the Salafi Al-Nour Party will win or lose from the ruling. The party already took a hit when their preferred candidate, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, placed fourth in the first round of the presidential elections and the Salafi stronghold of Alexandria voted for Sabahi. Whether they will lose ground in parliament to Sabahi’s Al-Karama party, or other Islamist parties, is hard to tell at this time.