Abstract: On Thursday, June 14, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the nation’s recent parliamentary elections were unconstitutional. The court's decision might end up benefiting Egyptians in the long run.
On June 14, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the nation's recent parliamentary elections were unconstitutional. According to the Los Angeles Times, the judges also decided that Ahmed Shafik, an "ally of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak," could run for president. Many Egyptians have condemned the court's actions. Per the New York Times, they claim that the judges' decisions threaten the nascent democratic processes which are just beginning to blossom in Egypt after decades of autocratic rule. As important, the court's actions threaten to throw the nation back into turmoil. However, in the long run, the judges' rulings could spur the growth of democracy in Egypt.
In the short run, Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, whatever its actual motives, likely hindered the growth of some democratic processes when it nullified the existing parliament. The decision sends a signal to Egyptians that their votes do not count for much when their wishes can be countermanded by non-elected judges. As the New York Times notes, the court's two rulings also imply that allies of ousted dictator, Hosni Mubarak, still have a significant amount of control over government decisions.
The judges' decisions will almost certainly bring about a new wave of street protests in major Egyptian cities. More worrisome, per The New York Times, Islamists (including the Muslim Brotherhood), who control the vast majority of seats in the current parliament, have said they will not dissolve the legislative body. The Islamists' actions set the stage for a potentially bloody confrontation with the allies of Mubarak. The tensions between the two groups may reach a boiling point if Shafik defeats the Islamasist candidate in this weekend's presidential elections.
While the high court's decisions will negatively impact many Egyptians over the next few weeks (and perhaps longer), it might end up benefiting them over the long run. Per the Los Angeles Times, Islamists currently control 70 percent of parliament. It is unclear how these people will govern if given the chance; however, when Islamists gained power in Afghanistan and in Iran, they severely limited the rights of women and other groups. Per CTV Canada, at least some of the Islamist groups who control Egypt's parliament want to curtail individual freedoms.
If that is the case, the Supreme Constitutional Court might have unknowingly aided the cause of democracy in Egypt by nullifying the current parliament. Assuming the situation in Egypt remains relatively stable and new parliamentary elections are held, it is quite possible that the Islamasists will not secure as many seats, especially since, per the Los Angeles Times, the court stated that one third of the parliamentary spots be "reserved for independents." As a result, it can be hoped that the new Egyptian parliament will be more moderate than the previous one, and thus more likely to protect individual freedoms.
-- Anthony Hopper
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