Egypt judges refuse to oversee Morsi referendum

Opposition supporters in Tahrir Square - 1 December The opposition says Mr Mursi has failed to seek a wide consensus on the constitution

Judges in Egypt have refused to oversee a vote on the country's new draft constitution, to be held in two weeks.

The Judges' Club's decision follows a confrontation between Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court and Islamist supporters of President Mohammed Morsi.

The court said it was suspending its work after its members were prevented from ruling on the legitimacy of the body that drew up the constitution.

Opposition groups called for protests against the referendum on Tuesday.

They said Mr Morsi had broken a promise not to call a referendum without gaining a wide national consensus.

"The National Salvation Front condemns the irresponsible act by the president of the republic in calling a referendum on an illegitimate constitution that is rejected by a large section of his people," an alliance of opposition groups said in a statement.

The opposition believes that the draft constitution undermines basic freedoms.

The latest developments heighten the tensions between President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters on one side, and his mainly secular political opponents and the judiciary on the other.


Hours after the Supreme Constitutional Court suspended its work, the Judges' Club, the union which represents the profession nationwide, said it had turned down the judges' traditional role of electoral oversight for the referendum.

"We have decided to boycott the supervision of the referendum on the constitution scheduled for December 15, 2012," the club's head Ahmed al-Zind announced.

"This protest is in response to what is being called the 'constitutional decree' and until this decree is rescinded."

Correspondents say the club's decisions are not binding on members, and Vice-President Mahmoud Mekky said he was confident judges would do their job.

Constitution at a glance

  • Sharia remains the main source of legislation
  • Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's leading authority, to be consulted on "matters related to Sharia"
  • Christianity and Judaism to be the main source of legislation for Christians and Jews
  • Religious freedom to be limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
  • Limits president to two four-year terms of office

The Supreme Constitutional Court had earlier described Sunday as "the blackest day in the history of Egyptian judiciary" after its judges were prevented from attending a meeting by Islamist protesters.

The court had been scheduled to rule on whether to dissolve both the constituent assembly that passed the draft constitution and the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, the Shura Council.

Supporters of President Mohammed Morsi wanted to block any ruling that would question the document's legality.

Mr Morsi adopted sweeping new powers in a decree on 22 November that stripped the judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions, so it is unclear what effect any Supreme Constitutional Court ruling would have had.

However, analysts say any ruling opposing his decisions would be a direct challenge and would bolster the opposition campaign to have his decree annulled.

The president's supporters are wary of the court, as it dissolved an Islamist-dominated lower house of parliament in an earlier confrontation in June.

The draft constitution was rushed through the constituent assembly on Thursday night.

Mr Morsi receives a copy of the draft constitution, 1 Dec Mr Morsi announced the referendum on Saturday

After receiving a copy of the document on Saturday, Mr Morsi called on "all Egyptians" to take part in the referendum, whether or not they agreed with the draft.

The draft constitution and the recent decree have prompted widespread protests by opponents.

Many anti-government activists remain camped out in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

If approved, the new text will overwrite all constitutional declarations - including Mr Morsi's decree - and a new parliament should be elected within 60 days.

Among the historic changes to Egypt's system of government, the draft limits a president to two four-year terms. It also introduces some civilian oversight of the military.

The draft keeps in place an article defining "principles of Sharia", or Islamic law, as the main source of legislation.

Mr Morsi's supporters point to the fact that he is Egypt's first freely elected president and argue that liberals and secularists do not represent the vast majority of Egyptians.

But the extent of Mr Morsi's new powers has raised fears that he might become a new dictator.


More on This Story

Egypt in transition


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  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    DavidinUSA @118

    But all 'born ignorant'

    Everywhere there is vulnerability in enjoyments, of music, belonging, hypnotic words, rhetorical skill, substance-abuse, legal or otherwise

    The richer West, as the poorer East, equally lacks the key of the shareable

    Where established education has been oblique, perhaps the internet etc will afford sufficient 'connection' - conscience and courage

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Weird beard Islamists can hardly be expected to encourage freedom & democratic practice. On the contrary, the Brotherhood's power grab says it all - in Mid East culture (outside Israel) it's all about imposing your will & getting others to lick your boots.

    The Mubarak era seems like a nice dream now - the Western media should be eternally ashamed of stirring up the anti-Mubarak street rabble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    So sorry

    We seem 'play-things of the gods', local & lent, the more cruel because 'sent by God', in fact in Fear & Greed & Ignorance, mocking every 'prophet' half-worthy of exaltation

    Yet, there is 'The Word', a moral universe that beckons

    Alliance needed between those of moral vision, and all coming to see the logic of Equal Democracy, against chaos

    So sorry so little example here

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Are we about to get an Islamist crescent in the Med - an Iron Burkah? When Syria falls hardline Islamists will take over. Egypt could follow. Tunisia is not far off. Libya, who knows. Algeria... it is not exactly safe and secure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Egypt continues to burn to the ground. Unemployment on the sharp rise as well as sexual assults on christian and muslim girls and women. We've seen and witnessed daily attacks on innocent coptic christians. Innocent christian and muslim protestors have been murdered through the streets of Cairo by extremists because they are defending freedom, social justice and democracy, free of sharia law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.


  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    The muslim brotherhood&salafi's main agenda is to enforce sharia law. Sharia Law is oppressive.Cutting of hand's&feet for crimes such as stealing, stoning for women committing adultry,converts out of Islam sentenced to death, public whipping for wearing non-islamic clothing,beating of women as disciplinary action,pouring of acid on the faces of females&blinding of one eye for refusing marriage,

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    To start off with, the Muslim Brotherhood deceived the egyptian christian and muslim people. They did not win the election, but forced themselves on the egyptian people. Basically, they threatened the authorities, that if they didn't claim victory, that they will cause national terror and further chaos in egypt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Religious laws mean discrimination against a section of the population. Christians in Egypt and the Middle East need protection. It appears that if you live in the Middle East you better be Male, Arab, and Sunni Muslim i.e. part of the dominant majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Religion has no place in law. The harm that is done to people as a result, not only in wars but also... remember the Inquisition? Similar things happening in Islam now, since it is still at the same stage as The Dark Ages was for Christianity.
    I hope these people can advance beyond this some time soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.


    The Muslim Brotherhood is a dangerous movement that seeks ultimate power. Let the judges defend freedom from the sleazy weird beards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Ban all religious involvement in politics- 95% of war and unrest is due to religion.
    (shias-sunnis-jews- christian have proved my point too long)

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    1) I've criticised the US in this very section. The religious have too much power there too.
    2) Yea as an anti-thiest I'm sure I'd have all the freedoms I have here under an Islamist government. The other's got bells on it by the way...
    3) Yes but at least you're allowed to be different on the whole under secularist democracies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    "sensible binding constitution"

    For direct democracy, with adult franchise & confidence (declining 'representative' leadership), 'we' can be capable of any folly, any horror, the 'sensible' seen / protested too late

    For representative democracy, we can expect address of meanings: representative of whom (majority or all), and in what way (by elective title and / or economic condition)

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Can anyone see the difference with Tunisia? The islamists have a much bigger majority than in Egypt, but they have agreed to power sharing.
    They also seem to be more concerned about creating jobs than shari'a.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Eddy frm Waring @85
    "Islamists take over
    Trust BBC (knew)"

    Charter & Agreement long ago lost duty to uphold "fundamental principles of democracy": now merely "to explain British parliamentary democracy", to customers at home and abroad

    'No telling' that role of UK 99% is to vote between hopelessly remote factions of the 1%

    Or that where group discrimination can polarise, things turn nastier

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.


    "...Democracy without a sensible binding constitution underpinning freedom and liberty is EXACTLY a tyranny of the majority..."


    OK. Character limit kicks in. Fair point.

    Most democracies (but not really ours) have that, and people expect it as part of the package.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    99. Nile boy
    "The disqualifications are due to "legal irregularities," CNN
    No explanation why, The Guardian, the Washington Post
    Why don't you enlighten me. Why don't you post those reasons for everyone to see?

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    96. Nile boy
    Furthermore man, allow me to doubt that "The reasons for the change (in the constitution) should be justified." means that the MPs will discuss it.
    Let's bet that it means that the president - or someone from Al Azhar - can veto it because "the change is not justified".
    Which is what happens when you add ambiguous sentences to support your own party, your view and your prerogatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @89 Black_And_Proud

    "How many weapons did we supply to Egypt in the course of the revolution?"

    Just to add:
    1. How many weapons were supplied to Saudi and Bahrian to use against their own people in their own revolution?
    2. Who do you think supplied these weapons?
    3. Bahrain imprisoned and killed their protestors
    4. Saudi still does.
    5, And they still get to have tea with the Queen.


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