The Continued Difficulties of the Egyptian Transition

Via the BBC:  Egypt court suspends constitutional assembly

A court in Egypt has suspended the 100-member assembly appointed last month to draft the country’s new constitution.

Several lawsuits had demanded Cairo’s Administrative Court block the decision to form the panel as it did not reflect the diversity of Egyptian society.

They said women, young people and minorities were under-represented.

Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour party, which dominate parliament, have a near-majority.

Liberals and secularists fear some of them would like to amend the constitution so that it follows the principles of Islamic law more strictly.

The new document will also determine the rights of Egypt’s religious and ethnic minority groups and the balance of power between the president – previously the supreme authority – and parliament.

As a generic proposition the issue of representativeness is a legitimate one.  A question here appears to be the legal standing of the court to issue such an order.

Once completed, the new draft constitution is to be submitted to the public as a referendum.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Quick Takes, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    I actually see this a a positive sign for separation of powers and an independent judiciary, both of which can only be helpful to development of egyptian democracy. But will it hold?

  2. Tillman says:

    The Administrative Court did not give the reasons for the ruling to suspend the constitutional assembly, stating only that it had halted “the implementation of the decision by the speaker of parliament” to form it and had referred the question of its legitimacy to a legal adviser.

    Is it odd that they didn’t tell us why? I don’t know much about Egypt.

  3. @Tillman:

    Is it odd that they didn’t tell us why?

    There does appear to be a jurisdictional issue here (i.e., it appears, at first read, that the court may not have the power to do what it did). As such, I am less optimistic about this than @Ben Wolf is, although I think that the basic issue of representation clearly matters.

    My concern would be that in the context of institutions in flux that differing actors may claim powers that they may not have which can lead to systemic crises. We’ll see. I find myself hopeful for a good outcome yet somewhat pessimistic about the chances thereof.

  4. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My concern would be that in the context of institutions in flux that differing actors may claim powers that they may not have which can lead to systemic crises.

    This sort of thing is not without precedent in leading to more robust public institutions. Our Supreme Court was not specifically empowered to determine issues of constitutionality yet forged that authority for itself as it struggled to establish its place as co-equal branch. What is happening in Egypt is a excellent opportunity for historians and anthropologists to witness what may be a parallel process as it happens.

  5. azza sedky says:

    No one in Egypt should blink. In the second that you blink something totally off will happen. If I write an article about the state of matters today, I will realize tomorrow that it is outdated and does not apply.
    Today we are in a state of weeding out those who will not run. It is a very difficult situation. Here is may take : the weeding out phase: http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2012/04/egypts-presidential-race-the-weeding-out-stage.html