Lawyers are pinning hope to the ruling which may bring an end to the syndicate council if proven that last year’s polls were invalid.
According to lawyers who filed the lawsuit contesting the validity of the election results, a large number of lawyers in Kafr Al-Sheikh province were asked to cast their votes in polling stations not affiliated to the Bar Association.
Although a ruling passed by a first-degree court ahead of the polls said elections should not be staged in such stations, the vote went ahead anyway.
After vowing to take a series of measures to withdraw confidence from the current National Democratic Party (NDP) syndicate chairman Hamdi Khalifa and council members, lawyers decided to wait until next week.
“We have to wait, for if the court rules that the current syndicate council should be dissolved, there’ll be no need to collect signatures or hold an emergency general assembly,” said leftist lawyer Ahmed Qenawi from the front of an independent Bar Association.
The front, strongly opposing the “weak” performance of Khalifa and his NDP-dominated council, two months ago sought to oust the council by launching a signature-collecting campaign. However, the attempt failed for several reasons. Khalifa and his group accused the front of forging the signatures of 700 lawyers needed to hold an emergency general assembly. News about a meeting between front members and Khalifa was leaked. “To tarnish the image of the front among lawyers, it was rumoured that a secret deal between the two sides had been made,” said lawyer Magdi Abdel-Halim, head of the group “Lawyers With no Shackles”.
A court ruling was eventually passed in Khalifa’s favour, banning the then emergency general assembly from being held. The front had no other choice but to temporarily halt measures until further notice. Meantime, Khalifa managed to hold on to his seat.
Khalifa and his council were helped by the trial of lawyers Ihab Saeieddin and Mustafa Fattouh who were convicted in June of assaulting Bassem Abul- Rous, a senior prosecutor in Tanta. At the time, lawyers including front members themselves believed the crisis would force people to put aside their differences and unite efforts to have their two colleagues released. Hence, the storm blowing against Khalifa calmed down, at least for a while.
However, the reportedly poor performance of the council while tackling the case of Saeieddin and Fattouh led many lawyers to renew their calls dismissing Khalifa.
Following the ruling of the Tanta Appeals Court passed earlier this month which sentenced the two lawyers to two years and three months in jail, lawyers led by former Nasserist syndicate chairman Sameh Ashour called on Khalifa to submit his resignation immediately, arguing that their colleagues were paying the price of a weak syndicate council.
The council is a mix of NDPs, MBs and leftists, and it apparently lacks harmony, something that has predictably weakened its performance.
Khalifa has been repeatedly accused of granting authority to the NDP to control affairs at the syndicate in return for holding on to the chairmanship’s chair.
Still, many lawyers say ousting Khalifa will not be easy with NDP lawyers backing him and the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which seized one-third of the council seats, adopting a neutral stand. For the MB, getting rid of Khalifa may allow Ashour, the group’s old foe, to return as the new syndicate chairman.
Believing he still has the upper hand, Khalifa dismissed lawyers’ calls for an emergency general assembly, announcing that a regular gathering will be staged late in December. Prior to holding the general assembly, all membership lists with be thoroughly examined to make sure lawyers attending the assembly are not intruders. Reviewing the annual budget, discussing the law regulating the profession and amendments to the pension system will be the topics tackled during the assembly, Khalifa said.
Lawyers sharply criticised Khalifa’s call for holding a regular general assembly after three months, viewing it as one of his endless attempts to escape the issue of a withdrawal of confidence.