Update: When constitution goes to the polls, judges may stay home

It is unlikely that judges would agree to supervise a public referendum on the new constitution unless President Mohamed Morsy cancels his recent constitutional declaration, Cairo Appeals Court head Gamal Ramadan said Thursday.

President Mohamed Morsy is expected to call for the referendum on Thursday evening after receiving the final draft of the constitution from Hossam al-Gheriany, head of the Constituent Assembly.

Ramadan told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the 22 November decree granting Morsy’s decisions immunity from judicial oversight has no legal basis as the president is not entitled to issue a constitutional declaration in the first place.

Morsy does have the right to pass a law or administrative decree, Ramadan explained, but a constitution or constitutional declaration must be approved by a referendum.

“Under the current circumstances,” Ramadan stressed, “I do not expect judges to participate in the referendum for the new constitution unless the president cancels his recent decisions. In that case, it is possible that the judiciary would oversee the referendum.”

Regardless of whether or not the judges participate, he said, the referendum would be legal because no court verdict invalidating the assembly has been issued. If there is a verdict against the assembly after the referendum, the constitution would still be legal if voters approve it.

On the other hand, Abdel Rahman Bahloul, president of the Tanta Court of Appeals, said the Supreme Judicial Council has not yet issued an opinion on the supervision question, nor have the general assemblies voted on the matter.

In an exclusive statement to Al-Masry Al-Youm, Balhloul said that suspending the work of the courts is not in the favor of the people. The Supreme Judicial Council expects the president to satisfy the people’s demands and placate the anger of the young judges, he added.

The Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly has faced several lawsuits calling for its dissolution, and a number of members withdrew or froze their membership in protest of the drafting process and later, Morsy's decree.

Last week, Morsy issued a new constitutional declaration that no judicial authority can dissolve the assembly and his decision cannot be challenged in court until a new constitution and parliament are in place.

Morsy’s order stipulated that the Constituent Assembly could not be dissolved and also appointed Talaah Abdallah chief public prosecutor in place of Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, prompting mass demonstrations and court strikes.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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