The Supreme Administrative Court reaffirmed on Saturday the Supreme Constitutional Court’s 14 June dissolution of the People’s Assembly, parliament’s lower house.
At midday Saturday, the court postponed the case on the dissolution of the People’s Assembly to 15 October with the bench citing the need for more time to study legal briefs, but then later ruled in another related case that parliament’s lower house is “null and void.”
Magda Fahmy, who ran as an independent in the 2011 People’s Assembly elections and lost, filed the case that led to the verdict. She demanded in her case that parliamentary elections be repeated as the election law was unfair.
The court ruled late Saturday that her case was invalid now that the People’s Assembly is “null and void” after the supreme constitutional court ruled the elections law was unconstitutional.
The court was initially looking at a case filed by former independent parliamentary candidate Anwar Sabeeh in December 2011. He demanded election results for one third of People’s Assembly seats be nullified and elections repeated.
Sabeeh and Fahmy argued in their cases that the elections were unfair to independents since members of political parties had been allowed to contest the third of seats reserved for individual candidates in a first past the post system even though they also had the chance to run for the two-thirds of seats allocated to political parties through party list proportional representation.
The Supreme Administrative Court then said it suspected the parliamentary elections law was unconstitutional and referred it to the Supreme Constitutional Court, which rules on the constitutionality of laws.
The supreme constitutional court ruled the law unconstitutional on 14 June and further ruled that the People’s Assembly should be dissolved.
Muslim Brotherhood lawyers argued that the supreme constitutional court’s decision was ultra vires, or beyond the court’s jurisdiction, and that it should have ruled on the constitutionality of the law then referred the case back to the supreme administrative court as it was the court originally handing the case.
“The is no precedent in any of our constitutions, laws or in any previous cases where the Supreme Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of one of the branches of state,” Muslim Brotherhood leader and Freedom and Justice Party legal advisor Ahmed Abu Baraka told the court bench in his defence statement.
He added that the law’s constitutionality only meant the parliament was illegitimate, but not that it was null or void and thus argued that the People’s Assembly still existed.
Other lawyers argued that based on the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling, only a third of the seats that were supposed to be reserved for independents but were contested by party members were void and that the other two thirds were legitimate.
They cited a German case where a constitutional court ruled that parliamentary elections were unconstitutional but that the parliament should continue to convene and legislate until a new one was elected in order to prevent a power vacuum.
Lawyer Shehata Mohamed Shehata, one of the plaintiffs, told the court Abu Barak’s point was moot and that the Supreme Constitutional Court could rule on an entire law even when only one of its articles had been referred to it, citing a case of an NGO law the court ruled unconstitutional in its entirety.
He closed by saying the case should not even be in front of the Supreme Administrative Court because it is a case about the People’s Assembly, which no longer exists due to the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling.
The Supreme Administrative Court then postponed the case to 15 October on Saturday and the postponement meant that the dissolution of the People’s Assembly was unlikely tobe reversed.
A constitutional referendum is likely to be held before the court would have made a final verdict in Sabeeh’s case and as such new parliamentary elections would be held before a court ruling could bring back the old People’s Assembly.
However, following the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling in Fahmy’s case, all scenarios that see the People’s Assembly reconvening have been exhausted.