The Straits Times
Published on Dec 03, 2012

Egypt judges up political stakes with referendum boycott


CAIRO (AFP) - Egyptian judges refused on Sunday to oversee a referendum due in less than two weeks on a controversial new constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated panel, sharply upping the stakes of a standoff with the Islamist president.

The announcement by the Judges Club, which represents judges nationwide, came after Egypt's top court began an open-ended strike in the face of a mass protest outside the courthouse by supporters of President Mohamed Mursi opposed to their ruling on the legality of the panel that drew up the draft charter.

Judges traditionally supervise elections in Egypt, giving them a seal of legitimacy, but they have been openly at loggerheads with Dr Mursi since he issued a decree last month placing both his decisions and the charter panel beyond their scrutiny.

The standoff has polarised Egyptian opinion and sparked the biggest political crisis since Dr Mursi assumed power in June as the country's first ever civilian president and its first elected leader since the overthrow of veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising early last year.