Monday, September 05, 2005

Judicial stand-off

Baheyya dissects the infiltration of the Egyptian judiciary by legal officers answering to the executive branch of government. Senior judges are clearly deeply committed to their constitutional role and to the doctrine of the separation of powers; the regime, through Supreme Constitutional Court Mamdouh Mare'i, is clearly determined to dilute their power, split their ranks, and limit their ability to grant legitimacy to, or withhold it from, the election.

On Friday, the judiciary took a strong stand against executive interference in their constitutionally mandated role to observe the elections. As Baheyya relates:

The majority of judges resolved to monitor the presidential poll next Wednesday, on the following terms: (1) judges will permit members of civil society watchdog groups to enter polling stations and observe the vote, (2) judges will hand over copies of voting figures to candidates' proxies, and (3) those judges who have been distanced from monitoring by fiat (approximately 1,700) will form their own fact-finding commissions and monitor the vote anyway, roving between polling stations much like the citizen watchdog groups.

Reinforcing the point, a court ruled Saturday in favour of a coalition of NGOs, saying that they could indeed observe the elections.

The Presidential Elections Commission responded almost immediately, re-iterating its ban on NGO participation in election monitoring, and also discounting a separate court decision to exclude a candidate who had lost the support of his party.

The implications should be obvious. A government body deriving its authority from the executive is arrogating the right to pick and choose which judicial decisions it considers binding. It will be interesting to see how this stand-off develops over the next two days.


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