By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: While Egyptians applauded the People’s Assembly’s (PA) decision to pass amendments to the law regulating political participation barring top Mubarak-era officials from running for president, the jury is still out on whether the law will be implemented.
On Thursday, the PA agreed to add a fourth clause to Article 3 of Law 73 of 1956, barring for 10 years anyone who held the position of president, vice president, prime minister, or head or secretary general of the National Democratic Party or member of its policies bureau or general committees over the 10 years preceding Feb. 11, 2011 from political participation.
Political participation is defined as voting and running in elections.
MPs had agreed the day before to amend an existing law rather than introduce a new one seen to be specifically tailored to exclude two presidential candidates, Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq.
Legal experts, however, still question the constitutionality of the amendment.
“Whether as articles under the political participation law or as separate political exclusion laws, such amendments are unconstitutional,” said professor of constitutional law at Cairo University, Raafat Fouda.
The amendment bars specific candidates from practicing politics even though they are only guilty of a PA-invented crime they call “corrupting political life,” he said.
Fouda explains that the amendment passed by the PA on Thursday aims to “bar” certain citizens, which is a temporary ban and should thus be included under Article 2 pertaining to banning people from practicing their political rights not Article 3, which pertains to barring.
“These people were not tried in a court of law and have not been found guilty of any crime so they can be neither banned nor barred.”
Lastly, Fouda said that all parties know that this article was passed to prevent specific people from running in the presidential election. However, the Presidential Election Committee (PEC) cannot abide by any article unless it is approved by the Constitutional Court, according to Article 28 of the constitutional declaration.
After PA approval, the amended law will require ratification of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which it is unlikely to grant judging by its reluctance to approve a previously prepared political exclusion law.
SCAF has the right to reject or approve any law within 30 days of its submission. If it fails to decide within this period, the law will automatically pass and can be implemented.
If SCAF amends it, then it will be referred back to the PA, where final approval is two-thirds majority vote after which it can go into effect immediately.
MPs supporting the amendment have argued that under the current circumstances it is crucial to protect the country and the revolution from Mubarak’s men.
“Corrupting political life is in fact an existing crime under the Treachery Law, which was passed in the 1950s,” said MP Essam Sultan, from Al-Wasat Party, who first proposed drafting a political exclusion law to the PA earlier this week.
Lawmaker Sultan added that the approved article can be implemented retroactively if passed before April 26 when the final list of candidates will be announced by the election committee.
The Freedom and Justice Party, the largest block in parliament, was accused of pushing for that law because Suleiman constituted strong competition to the party’s presidential candidate Khairat Al-Shater.
The party has denied that, however. “We would have supported this law even if we didn’t have any candidate in this election,” said spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan.
“The return of a member of the ousted regime is an insult to the revolution and what it called for and a sign of disrespect to the martyrs who gave their lives to oust these people from power,” he said.
“The law prevents the reproduction of an oppressive and corrupt regime so we would have supported it under any circumstances.”