The Supreme Constitutional Court will be reformatted to consist of 11 justices instead of 18. The change will be one of the immediate alterations to the Egyptian judiciary that will be go into effect after the official passage of the new constitution.
Article 176 of section 4 states, “the Supreme Constitutional Court is made up of a president and ten members… appointments take place by a decree from the president of the republic.”
“It was the legal and technical opinion of experts of the law that the number should be specified,” said Freedom and Justice Party spokesperson Mourad Ali. He went on to say that the number of members was not originally outlined by the constitution so the number “was left to be decided by the president, adding one, reducing one, according to his will, which is very dangerous.”
While the Constituent Assembly saw the reduction as a necessary move, others say it is a case of politicking on behalf of Islamist groups.
Political analyst Gamal Sultan voiced a common critique of the change, saying, “Unfortunately this part of the constitution is very much tailored to end the tenure of a number of judges who were vocal in objecting and criticizing the Muslim Brothers, judges that had strong legal and political views against them.”
The constitutional court was a thorn in the side of those trying to pass the current draft constitution, culminating with President Mohamed Morsy passing a declaration to temporarily revoke the court’s authority.
“Definitely it will weaken the constitutional court,” added Sultan. “In the future there will be a taming of the court. This is where we are now.”
“Morsy has nothing to do with the constitution,” said Ali, adding that the FJP “were a minority [in the Constituent Assembly], we were not the majority, we were not able to make the decision alone.”
Lawyer Mohamed Fadel said of the decision to narrow the number of judges, “It’s a political move. There are a number of judges who are against the Muslim Brotherhood, so they intend to get them out.”
By making the number smaller Fadel said that “maybe there are a few specific judges that they can get out, maybe they know these judges have a problem with [presidential] decrees.”
Sultan also questioned how the constituent assembly came up the total number being 11. “Why this exact number, not one more or one less? It is designed so the particular members, particularly Tahani El-Gebali, will be removed from the court. It’s a kind of a constitutional article that is tailored to serve certain interests.”
El-Gebali is a member of the Supreme Constitutional Court who has been accused of working to combat an increased Islamist presence in the new Egyptian government.
Ali disputed this claim, saying, “By the way, the proposal [for 11 members] was made by Gamal Gabriel, who is very well known to be liberal and an expert in law.”