Egypt court rejects election law, may delay poll

CAIRO Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:58pm IST

Riot police vehicles take their positions after clashes with anti-Mursi protesters in front of the Presidential Palace ''Qasr El-Quba'' in Cairo February 15, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Riot police vehicles take their positions after clashes with anti-Mursi protesters in front of the Presidential Palace ''Qasr El-Quba'' in Cairo February 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's constitutional court rejected five articles of a draft election law on Monday and sent the text back to the country's temporary legislature for redrafting in a ruling that may delay a parliamentary poll due in April.

"The court has returned the draft parliamentary electoral law to the Shura Council after making five observations on five articles which it found unconstitutional," a statement said.

The court said the election law was technically flawed and contradicted articles in the new constitution which the Shura council members themselves had drawn up.

The five articles the court highlighted involved limits on lawmakers' political affiliations, the ability of lawmakers to change their status from professionals to peasants, provisions for Egyptians to vote abroad and the division of constituencies.

The statement said the technical problems pertained to "the wording of the law" and "contradictions within the law".

"The report by the constitutional court on the electoral law reveals the level of professional weakness of the Shura council and the haste in which the new constitution was drawn up," said politician and former member of parliament Mostafa Naggar.

The liberal Wafd Party said "the Muslim Brotherhood has violated the constitution it drew up" and the Social Democratic Party hailed the constitutional court's statement.

A source in President Mohamed Mursi's office said before the decision that if the court found fault with the law, it could delay its passage, and hence the election, by a couple of weeks, but probably not months.

Mursi had been expected to promulgate the electoral law by February 25 and set a date two months later for voting, probably in more than one stage for different regions because of a shortage of judicial poll supervisors.

The constitutional court, made up partly of judges from ousted former President Hosni Mubarak's era, has intervened repeatedly in the transition, dissolving the Islamist-dominated parliament elected after the 2011 pro-democracy uprising.

Its composition was changed by the new constitution passed by a referendum in December.

The Freedom and Justice Party said it respected the court's decision, saying in a statement that prior scrutiny of the law was a guarantee of "the stability of the legislative institutions, and spared the country the negative affects of the dissolution of representative councils".

Mursi was criticised in October for issuing a decree giving himself powers to override the judiciary. He backed down and dropped the decree weeks later following widespread protests. (Reporting by Marwa Awad; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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