Egyptian Judges set to Boycott Morsi’s Referendum
By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 3, 2012
After a special meeting in Cairo, Judges from the Egyptian Court, announced their resignation to oversee the referendum which is intended to ratify the Constitution adopted early Friday. The vote to approve the latest version of the Egyptian Constitution, which is composed mainly by Islamic law, will take place on December 15.
Public protest were added to the Judges’ concern after the latest decisions of the Islamist government, especially the decree that grants almost absolute powers to Mohamed Morsi. Morsi himself signed the decree which also shields the Constituent Assembly, abandoned by liberal and secular representatives.
“We have decided to boycott the supervision of the Constitutional referendum scheduled for December 15. The protest is a response to what has been called a constitutional declaration. And we will keep it until the decree is removed, “said Ahmed al-Zend, the president of the association and famous scourge of Islamists. The Judges’ decision was taken by a majority, but it is not binding on its members, so that each judge shall endorse or not the call of Al-Zend.
The Judges’ Club, a legal association in Egypt has been organizing the judiciary so that it shows greater hostility to the decree signed by Morsi right from the first moment, urging its members to strike indefinitely until the head of state removes the controversial text. Although there are no official figures, some local media have estimated the strike track by about 100% for the courts, and 75% for appeals.
According to current legislation, judges are responsible for overseeing both elections and referendums. If we consider that in Egypt there are about 12,000 judges, and a similar number of polling stations, it is easy to conclude that the boycott organized by the Club requires only moderate support to prevent the successful holding of the referendum.
However, vice-president Mahmoud Mekki, a judge himself, is confident that his colleagues will end up doing their duty. Sources close to the Muslim Brotherhood suggested to the newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm that university professors or government officials could replace striking judges.
However, this would cast the shadow of doubt on the legitimacy of the referendum and would probably lead to the opposition to boycott. Currently, secular parties and movements are torn between not campaigning or participating in the referendum, hoping that a low turnout will delegitimize the entire constitutional process.
The Judges Club announcement came hours after the Constitutional Court defined Sunday as “the blackest day in the history of the judiciary in Egypt”, after hundreds of Islamist militants encircled their building to bar entry to judges. The Court, which would issue a symbolic verdict on the legality of the Constituent Assembly, suspended its work indefinitely.
The conflict with the judiciary is one of two open fronts that president Morsi is facing at the moment and which have made the Egyptian transition more difficult than expected. The other is the political front. Morsi’s “constitutional declaration” and his decision to accelerate the adoption of the new constitution without reaching a consensus with secular forces set the fragmented opposition up in arms. But what is worse for Morsi, is that he is beginning to show signs of incapacity to create the unity needed to move forward.
Many opposition groups that work under the umbrella of the National Salvation Front are preparing the next mobilization. Such mobilization will take place Tuesday at the gates of the presidential palace. “The National Salvation Front condemns the irresponsible act of the President to convene a referendum on a constitution which we consider to be illegitimate and that is rejected by a large portion of our supporters,” said the statement issued by the coalition.
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