A top Egyptian court on Monday overturned a decision barring members of President Hosni Mubarak's former party from standing in a parliamentary election that starts later this month.
A lower Egyptian court in the Delta city of Mansoura ruled on Friday to ban members of former National Democratic Party (NDP) from running, setting off a string of lawsuits nationwide aimed at removing such candidates from the race.
"Depriving (anyone) of taking up their political rights is an attack on rights that are protected and guaranteed in the constitution," said a document detailing the verdict of the Higher Administrative Court, presided by Judge Magdy el-Agaty.
Backers of the candidates, who were former members of the now disbanded party, cheered the decision at the crowded court, chanting: "God is the greatest." Some waved pictures of candidates.
"I dedicate this ruling to all the honorable sons of this country from all political parties not only the disbanded NDP," said Omar Hareidy, a former NDP member and candidate in Assiut. "It gives equal chances to everyone."
Many former NDP members have registered to run as independents or on other party lists in the first free election in decades following an uprising that overthrew Mubarak.
The first stage of the staggered vote starts on November 28.
Former NDP members have set up at least six new parties and many are running with older parties, angering activists who want to ensure that those they see as "counter-revolutionary" forces are kept out of the assembly which is tasked with appointing a committee to write Egypt's new constitution.
Eliminating any members associated with the former ruling party could have meant party lists and candidate applications would have to be reviewed from scratch, disrupting the vote or potentially even delaying it, analysts had said.
Protesters who toppled Mubarak have been demanding for months that a law barring anyone found guilty of corruption be issued and complain that the ruling army generals are dragging their feet.
The military council had promised to issue such a law to curb the influence of Mubarak's NDP, but its draft version has a narrower scope than Mansoura's court ruling and analysts think it is unlikely it will be issued to affect the results of the vote.
"Depriving someone of a political right must be based on a clear article in the law," the High Administrative Court's report, obtained by Reuters, said, adding that banning anyone from running could only be through means specified by the law.
Legal sources said the spirit of the decision would likely prevent further challenges against candidates associated with the NDP, but one of the lawyers who brought the claim to ban former ruling party members from running said the verdict will not stop further suits.
"The High Administrative Court revealed its position," Ahmed Abo Baraka said. "The verdict does not prevent other lawsuits from being filed in different parts of the country.
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