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Egypt court rules parliamentary election process unconstitutional

The High Administrative Court of Egypt [JURIST news archive] ruled Monday that the voting system used in the recent parliamentary election was unconstitutional. The election was held over three stages from late November to January, and its the elaborate voting system apportioned parliamentary seats between political parties and individuals, with two thirds of the seats going to political parties. Judge Magdy el-Agaty determined the ratio to be in violation of the constitution [Reuters report], that half of the seats should have been held for individuals. Additionally, Agaty stated that political parties should not have been permitted to field candidates for the seats reserved for individuals. During the elections the political parties reportedly haggled over how many candidates they would field for those seats. It is not clear whether the ruling will lead courts to invalidate the results of the elections, widely viewed as Egypt's freest vote in decades. Agaty has referred parts of the country's election law to the Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] for a final judgment.

Egypt has been ruled by the military since the overthrow [JURIST report] of former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive] last February. The new parliament is supposed to name a 100-member council to draw up a constitution, paving the way for presidential elections, but the court's ruling could mire that process and other parliament functions. Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the newly elected parliament to pursue an agenda to reform nine areas of Egyptian law [JURIST report] that impede freedom and restrict rights. Meanwhile the prosecution in the case against Mubarak is seeking the death penalty for the former president, whose trial resumed in December in an Egyptian court after a two-month adjournment [JURIST reports] allowing the court time to rule on a motion made by lawyers representing the victims' families to have the three-judge panel in the case removed. The defense is scheduled to give closing remarks this week, after which the judge will set the date [JURIST report] to announce his verdict.

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