CAIRO — A government legal agency representing Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi appealed on Wednesday the court-ordered suspension of a controversial parliamentary election, a judicial official said.
But Morsi’s office, which had earlier indicated that it would not appeal, immediately distanced itself from the move. An official said that there was “no going back” on the elections suspension.
The elections, coming amid a surge of protests, strikes, and economic shortages, are the latest focus in Egypt’s long-running political conflict. The Brotherhood hopes elections will provide some legitimacy to Morsi’s embattled government.
But Morsi’s government is also keen to show that it is not in conflict with the judiciary, a body with which he has clashed several times since he came to power last year.
The opposition has meanwhile called for a boycott of the vote, expressing concern they may be fraudulent.
The official says the High Administrative Court will rule on the appeal filed by the Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority on Sunday, alongside a separate appeal of the suspension that was filed by a parliamentarian.
The legal battle over the elections comes amid a months-long crisis pitting Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement against a coalition of mostly liberal- and left-leaning opposition groups. The conflict has involved street protests but has also been fought in the courts.
The conflict was touched off last November when Morsi granted himself immunity from judicial supervision. He later revoked this decision, but not before protests had escalated dramatically.
The March 6 decision that annulled Morsi’s decision to hold elections in April appears. On that day, the lower court ruled that the law governing the elections was illegal and that its passage by the Islamist-dominated parliament was procedurally improper. Presiding judge Abdel-Meguid el-Muqanen said at the time that the law must be reviewed by the Supreme Constitutional Court and that Morsi needed to consult with his Cabinet before calling an election.
The presidency put out a statement that day saying it would respect the decision. But on Saturday, the Lawsuits Authority issued a statement describing the vote suspension ruling as the “total destruction and constriction of the president’s ability to carry out his basic authorities.”
The presidency on Wednesday denied having pushed the Lawsuits Authority to file the appeal. An official said that the presidency “did not express the desire to appeal the court verdict” and was not trying to rush the holding elections.
The presidential official said the elections will be postponed until parliament changes the election law, regardless of the result of the appeal. “We want to walk with steady steps,” he said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Egypt’s main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, had called for a boycott of the elections, claiming that there were not enough guarantees that the voting would be free and fair. It hailed the court verdict suspending the elections and demanded that the Cabinet ministers charged with overseeing the vote be independents, rather than Morsi’s allies.
It also challenged the election law, expressing concerns about gerrymandering by the Brotherhood-dominated parliament.
The Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, has already started to debate a new elections law to replace the one overturned by the courts.
Opposition leader Amr Moussa described the appeal as “unwise move.” He said the suspension of the elections provided a “precious” opportunity to create “harmonious conditions” in which to hold the elections.
“I never imagined that the government would reject this gift and take us back to square zero,” he said.