CAIRO -- An Egyptian administrative court ruled late Wednesday in favor of a lawsuit seeking to suspend this month’s presidential election, a surprise move expected to be discounted by the nation’s ruling military council.
The court found that the Supreme Presidential Election Commission did not have the power to set a date for the election, which it scheduled for May 23-24. The court said only the military council could set the time, a technicality that legal analysts say is unlikely to disrupt the poll. Hours before the judicial decision, military leader Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi announced that voting would not be delayed.
The military council had granted the election commission the authority to schedule the poll. The Associated Press quoted lawyer Ahmed Seif Islam as saying the court's verdict could easily be appealed. A judicial official confirmed that, according to the news agency.
The decision highlights the erratic nature of the country’s politics ahead of its first freely contested presidential election. It indicates that Egypt, which last year helped to inspire uprisings across the Arab world, is still struggling to move beyond the legacy of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.
The climate of unpredictability was further underscored Wednesday when news of the court's ruling was carried on the same television channels advertising Thursday's presidential debate between the two leading candidates: former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
-- Jeffrey Fleishman and Amro Hassan
Photo: A woman in Cairo walks past posters of candidates in Egypt's presidential election, scheduled for May 23-24. A ruling to suspend the vote is widely expected to be discounted. Credit: Khaled Elfiqi / European Pressphoto Agency