CAIRO – Egypt’s administrative court on Wednesday ordered the cancelation of controversial parliamentary elections scheduled for April 22, deepening the country’s political crisis.
President Mohammed Morsi said that he would respect the court’s decision, although it was not immediately clear whether he would appeal.
Judge Abdel Meguid al-Moqanen ruled the president had ratified a new electoral law last month without sending it to Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court for approval, as required by the nation’s constitution.
Consequently, the court referred the law to the constitutional court and canceled Morsi’s decree calling for elections.
The law was issued by the Senate, which has been acting as a legislative body since a previous court ruling abolished the lower house of Parliament in June over constitutional issues. The Senate sent it to the constitutional court, which returned it after rejecting several articles. The Senate then amended the law, but never sent it back for final approval.
This puts Morsi in an uncomfortable position. He has repeatedly insisted that elections would usher in stability, dismissing criticism that the polls were untimely with the country gripped by unrest and division. In a brief statement, the president’s office said it “respects” the court’s move, “reaffirming its respect for the constitution, the rule of law and the separation of powers.”
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood also said it would “respect the decision of the administrative court to halt the elections and then send the matter to the constitutional court.”
The election had been scheduled to take place in four stages over two months. Egypt’s main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front (NSF),
, had already announced it would boycott it — expressing doubts over its transparency — and demanded a new electoral law.
The gulf between the ruling Islamists and the opposition has been widening since November, when Morsi issued a decree expanding his powers. The decree was repealed after intense street pressure, but only after a controversial Islamist-drafted constitution was rushed through.
The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies won an overwhelming majority in the legislative polls in the winter of 2011 and 2012. The NSF has accused the Brotherhood of wanting to “dominate all the state organs” and reiterated its demand for the formation of a government of national salvation.