On Sunday 1 March, the Egyptian Supreme Court has ruled the Electoral Districts Law to be unconstitutional. Due to this decision the upcoming parliamentary elections will probably be postponed, as was announced by the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC). The first round of the elections was supposed to be held on 23-25 of March.
The court ruled that Article 3 of the Egyptian Electoral Districts law is not in line with the Egyptian constitution. The article, that was supposed to define the electoral districts for the upcoming elections, was introduced by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi last December. Lawyers who appealed against the law, criticised the law since ‘it failed to divide districts in a way that would adequately represent the electorate’. Due to this verdict, several amendments to the law have to be made before the elections can be held. Subsequently, in the same hearing, the court however rejected appeals against the Law of the Exercise of Political Rights and the Parliamentary Elections Law, which were both also issued in 2014. On Sunday night the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) got together in an emergency meeting and announced that the elections have to be postponed until the districts law has been amended. The commission stated that it is working on a ‘new timetable’ for the parliamentary elections. Within the next month a lower court will probably formally confirm the delay and rule that the elections should be postponed pending the amendments to this law. A possible new election-date however, has to be set by the SEC.
President el-Sisi stated in response to the ruling that the government will adopt the necessary legislative amendments within a month. According to el-Sisi ‘all legal procedures are to be taken to avoid delaying the third merit’. It is however unlikely that this could happen without a further delay, since candidates would probably have to go through the process of registering for the elections all over again. The judgement can be seen as a victory for the opposition, which had been actively advocating for its amendment. The decision has been welcomed by the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP). The ESDP has repeatedly raised it concerns about the law and has warned the government for the risks of proceeding under this law. The party released a statement stating that: ‘This verdict may prove that the judiciary is becoming independent; especially that some of the recent rulings against the revolutionaries had been met with resentment from the democratic forces.’
‘Final stage of political roadmap’
The March-elections were supposed to set up a new democratically elected parliament. A second round of the elections is due to be held in April. The former parliament was dissolved in June 2012, leaving the country without a democratically elected parliament until this date. The parliamentary elections are supposed to be the third step of a ‘political roadmap’ that was presented by the president right after the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi. The other two stages, adopting a new constitution and the presidential elections, have already been completed. President El-Sisi was installed after winning the presidential elections in May 2014, previously the new constitution was adopted after a referendum in January of that year.