Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s controversial legislative elections, due to begin next month, have been postponed by a court ruling only two weeks after Egypt’s largest opposition coalition announced it would boycott them.
The elections for the lower house of Egypt’s parliament were originally scheduled to begin at the end of April and take place in four stages over two months. They have been delayed by the decision of Cairo’s Administrative Court to refer the electoral law under which they take place to Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). Egypt has been without an elected lower house for almost a year after the judiciary ruled that the previous parliamentary elections had been unconstitutional.
The election law was originally passed by the Shura Council, the upper house of the Egyptian parliament, in February, after amending it to take the SCC’s concerns about an earlier version into account. The new ruling states that the amended version must also be approved by the court before the elections can proceed.
The new development was welcomed by the National Salvation Front (NSF), the main coalition of largely liberal and secularist parties opposed to President Mursi and his allies in the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The NSF announced that it would boycott the poll at the end of February, arguing that the electoral law was biased in favor of Mursi’s allies, having been passed by the Islamist-dominated upper house. Some of its leaders also called for the vote to be postponed until the security situation in Egypt improved.
President Mursi and the FJP have announced that they accept the ruling. The office of the president released a statement on Twitter, saying that it “respects the Administrative Court’s ruling to suspend lower house elections and [its decision to] refer the elections law back to the Constitutional Court.”
The continuing dispute around the elections is likely to lead to further uncertainty about the stability of Egypt, and comes at a time of profound crisis for Mursi’s government, which is struggling to contain outbreaks of violence in Cairo and the restive city of Port Said, which has seen several days of clashes between protestors and police.
Egypt is also negotiating a loan with the International Monetary Fund for almost USD 5 Billion, in a bid to revive the ailing economy.