Egyptian council paves way for poll


Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council has cleared the way for a referendum on a new constitution, which President Mohamed Morsi hopes will end a political crisis that has split the country.

Some judges had called for their colleagues to shun the December 15th plebiscite, which must be supervised by the judiciary. But the council’s decision suggests enough officials can be mobilised to oversee the vote.

“The Supreme Judicial Council has met and agreed to delegate judges to oversee the constitutional referendum,” Mohamed Gadallah, a legal adviser to Mr Morsi, said yesterday. State media also reported the decision.

Mr Gadallah said about 10,000 members of the judiciary were needed for the monitoring. These do not all have to be judges.

“This moves Morsi closer to credible judicial supervision of the referendum, but probably will do little to reassure his opponents of the legitimacy of the process, beginning from the formation of the constitutional assembly,” said Elijah Zarwan, a fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Judicial dissent has complicated the Islamist leader’s efforts to end the crisis over Egypt’s political transition by driving through a new constitution in a snap vote in a drafting assembly dominated by his Islamist supporters.

The influential but unofficial Judges Club had called on Sunday for a boycott of the referendum, which Mr Morsi hopes will dampen anger over a recent decree that expanded his powers and temporarily put himself above judicial review.

Such a boycott, even if not all judges joined it, could undermine the credibility of the poll and worsen disputes that have plagued Egypt’s path to political change. – (Reuters)