Court ruling not expected to derail Egyptian parliament

Court ruling not expected to derail Egyptian parliament
Egyptian anti-riot police stand guard in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo. The high court ruled that Egypt's upper house of parliament and constitutional panel were illegally elected. (Amr Nabil / Associated Press)

CAIRO — Egypt’s highest court ruled Sunday that both the country’s upper house of parliament and the committee that drafted the nation’s constitution had been elected illegally, but the impact of the decision appeared to be largely technical.

"The ruling," lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr said, "has no actual effect on the ground."

The Supreme Constitutional Court was acting in response to lawsuits filed against both the upper house, known as the Shura Council, and the 100-member constitutional committee.

Despite its ruling, the court said the Islamist-dominated Shura Council would continue to serve as the country's main legislative body for the time being. It also said the ruling would have no effect on the new constitutional charter, which was voted into effect in a popular referendum last December, because the charter is a representation of the popular will.

Still, the decision reflects a deepening rift between the country’s judicial authority and President Mohamed Morsi, who has been accused of trying to force Muslim Brotherhood domination over the judiciary.

The court said the Shura Council could be dissolved only when a new lower house of parliament is elected. The lower house, known as the People's Assembly, was dissolved in June 2012, days before Morsi was sworn into office.

Many in Egypt's opposition were dismayed by the court's decision to maintain the Shura Council's legislative role, and some proposed the drafting of a new constitution.

“Back to square one: Shura council & constituent assembly declared unconstitutional. Consensus on new constitutional frame work only way out,” opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei tweeted.

Morsi's office issued a statement saying all Egyptians are committed to "defend, protect and respect" the constitution.