• 05:37
  • Thursday ,10 May 2012

Egypt's SPEC in hot water for halting activities, others criticise MPs


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Thursday ,10 May 2012

Egypt's SPEC in hot water for halting activities, others criticise MPs

Initial reactions varied towards Tuesday's controversial decision by the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) to indefinitely suspend all of its activities, with some political forces blaming the legal body, while others took a swipe at the People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament).

The decision came, according to SPEC Secretary-General Hatem Bagato, in response to what the commission sees as parliamentary encroachment on its affairs, following a Monday session of the People's Assembly in which several proposed amendments to Egypt's presidential elections law were preliminarily approved by MPs in attendance. 
The official campaign of judge and reformist presidential candidate, Hisham El-Bastawisi, said in a statement that the People's Assembly has the right to review any laws if necessary, but it is "not normal to discuss election laws days before the start of voting," which is set to begin on 23 May.
"It happened before when the parliament discussed the disenfranchisement law; the decisions of the People's Assembly are always ill-timed," the statement read.
The discussion over the disenfranchisement law took place last month but did not result in the elimination of any candidates from the former regime as predicted.
"Judge El-Bastawisi and many of the campaign's volunteers have repeatedly called for the revocation of Article 28 of the constitutional declaration [passed in March 2011], which stipulates that the commission's decisions are not appealable, an article that raises suspicions."
Article 28 has been subject to considerable criticism in recent months, especially in light of the SPEC's disqualification of certain presidential candidates – such as Salafist frontrunner Hazem Abu-Ismail – and its decision to allow Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq's return to the race after the SPEC had accepted his appeal against his elimination.‎
Although Article 28 gives virtually unfettered authority to the SPEC, the legal committee of Islamist presidential hopeful Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh's campaign said the SPEC has no right to put a hold on its activities.
The committee said in a Tuesday statement: "what is astonishing is that the SPEC does not have the authority to suspend its work, whether as an administrative or legal commission."
For his part, Nasserist presidential contender Hamdeen Sabbahi, commented that the SPEC can take whatever decision its members think is appropriate, "but without affecting its duties towards the presidential elections."
"I don't see any insults in the amendments suggested by the MPs to the presidential elections law," he said, "What happened was an unjustified escalation, especially with the elections looming. The Egyptian people would not let anyone hinder the process of the elections or allow a delay of the transition of power [from the interim junta to an elected president].
"The commission's decision to suspend its activities is not acceptable, irrespective of the reasons, because this might result in postponing the presidential elections; the nation's interest must be the foremost priority," he added.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Saad El-Katatni, the parliament speaker, who also stressed during a People's Assembly session on Tuesday that the commission's decision is "unlawful."
"The parliament is only doing its job and fulfilling its duties pursuant to the constitution and law," he said.
Brotherhood misusing authorities?‎
The liberal Free Egyptians Party, on the other hand, seemed to be convinced that Islamist MPs, who comprise the majority of the parliament, are to blame for the predicament.
Ahmed Khairy, a party spokesperson, says the problem was instigated by the Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), insinuating that the latter's MPs are misusing their authorities to serve the group's interests.
"The Brotherhood and its political wing's endeavour to amend the elections law does not aim to serve the public interest," Khairy stated, before adding that: "This commission was formed in accordance with the constitutional declaration, which the Brotherhood promoted.
"Now, the Brotherhood is making troubles with the SPEC after their candidate, Khairat El-Shater, was eliminated from the elections and the SPEC rejected the appeal the group lodged against his disqualification.
"They're just trying to find a good way to justify the loss their current candidate Mohamed Mursi might sustain in the presidential elections."
In the weekly poll conducted by Al-Ahram Political Studies Centre for the week 28 April to 1 May, Mursi jumped into fourth place for the first time with 7 per cent.
The campaign of Mursi, who was introduced in the presidential race right shortly after El-Shater's elimination midway through April, appears to be unfazed by the SPEC's decision to suspend its activities, according to Ahmed Abel Atti, the general coordinator of the campaign.
"We are expecting authorities to take action in order to make sure the road map of the transitional period is going as planned," he said in a press release.    
Amr Moussa, the veteran diplomat who is widely regarded as a frontrunner in the elections, urged the SCAF to step in to put an end to the ongoing feud in order for Egypt to avoid unpleasant ramifications.
"I understand why the commission is protesting and it has the right to take the necessary actions, but its members need to take into consideration the interests contingent upon its decisions," Moussa told state news agency MENA.