Egypt’s Highest Court to Weigh Fate of Parliament Upper House

Egypt’s highest court is to hear today a case challenging the legitimacy of the parliament’s upper house, reviving a long-running political dispute ahead of the anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Demonstrators supporting the dissolution of the parliament camped overnight in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court. Islamist critics of the court had massed by the hundreds in the same place in December and prompted justices to cancel a planned hearing on the parliament case and another dealing with the panel that drafted the country’s new constitution.

Banners hoisted across the street from the Pharaonic- inspired court today read: “No to the terrorism of the Brotherhood,” and “Youth of the revolution protect the court.”

The protests and the debate over the constitution, which was passed by a majority in a two-stage referendum that ended Dec. 22, underscore the deepening rifts in the Arab world’s most populous nation since President Mohamed Mursi was elected in June. The Islamist president’s critics argue that he and the Muslim Brotherhood are monopolizing power. The opposition says Mursi pushed through a charter drafted by an Islamist-dominated panel that undercuts freedoms and further enshrines Islamic law in the country.

The high court came under fire from Islamists who said its Mubarak-appointed justices were biased against Mursi and were intent on upending attempts at progress by the country’s first democratically elected civilian president.

Hearing Cancelled

As hundreds of Islamists massed by the court on Dec. 2, the judges were forced to cancel a hearing in which they were to decide on the constitutionality of the law under which the parliament’s upper house was elected. The move drew sharp rebukes from the judiciary, which claimed it was being targeted, particularly after Mursi issued a Nov. 22 decree placing his decisions above court review and granting the parliament and the constitutional panel immunity from dissolution.

The legislature’s lower house was disbanded after the court ruled against it earlier last year. The upper house has assumed temporary legislative powers since the ratification of the constitution.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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