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Egypt Court Upholds Vote Suspension as Shuffle Looms

Egypt Court Upholds Vote Suspension as Cabinet Shuffle Looms
An Egyptian protester stands in front of a burning bus set alight during violent clashes between supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and opposition demonstrators on April 19, 2013 in central Cairo. Photographer: Ed Giles/Getty Images

An Egyptian court upheld a ruling suspending a parliamentary election President Mohamed Mursi sought to begin tomorrow, increasing uncertainty in the country ahead of a Cabinet shuffle aimed at easing the political deadlock.

The decision by the Supreme Administrative Court came the same day the Cabinet announced that Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki submitted his resignation. Mekki’s replacement will be announced as part of broader changes in the government, Cabinet spokesman Alaa el-Hadidi said in an e-mailed statement. New Cabinet appointments have been a key demand of Egypt’s opposition.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that fielded Mursi for office, on Friday held a protest that called for the purging of the country’s judiciary, which they have said is biased against them. In his resignation letter, Mekki said both the opposition and government supporters wanted him to resign or be fired.

“Opponents of yours have been urging me to resign,” the state-run news agency cited a resignation letter from Mekki to the president as saying. At the same time, your “supporters have asked for my firing to realize their goals.”

Judicial Verdicts

The court ruling on the elections by Judge Yahya El-Dakroury may be seen by Islamists as another decision directed against the president or his supporters, including earlier verdicts that led to the disbanding of the Islamist-dominated parliament’s lower house last year. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref had no official comment on the court ruling.

The ruling also does little to dispel the uncertainty over a still-elusive $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan that Egypt sees as key for reviving investor confidence. The IMF has sought a program of tough austerity measures in exchange for the loan.

“The dilemma for policy makers is that there will be elections which are upcoming, and obviously if you implement austerity measures, those will not get you any votes,” Giyas Gokkent, group chief economist at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC, said by phone. “That’s the Catch-22 that they find themselves in.”

Mursi, Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president, has struggled to rein in unrest since he took office last year.

After a lower court struck down his decree setting the start of the vote for this month, Mursi indicated the elections could begin in October. The Cabinet shuffle will ensure the most qualified are shepherding the country ahead, Mursi said yesterday. It may also be aimed at securing the kind of broad political consensus that has so far eluded Egypt and stymied efforts to secure the IMF loan.

The president said he was working to ensure the interests of Egyptians, and that the inability to get the loan was “the best proof of our refusal to give in to conditions.”

“These programs and these tools that achieve the general interests are not in accordance with what the IMF wants,” Mursi said. “I’m not subject to any conditions internally or externally. The only condition is achieving the interest of the citizens.”

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