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updated: 3/13/2013 10:10 AM

Egypt: Morsi's government appeals vote suspension

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Associated Press

CAIRO -- A government legal agency representing Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi appealed on Wednesday the court-ordered suspension of a controversial parliamentary election, a judicial official said. The appeal comes after an earlier pledge by Morsi's office not to challenge the verdict.

The official says the High Administrative Court will rule on the appeal on Sunday, alongside a separate appeal of the suspension that was filed by a parliamentarian. He spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

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The legal battle over the elections comes amid a months-long crisis pitting Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement against a coalition of mostly liberal- and left-leaning opposition groups. The conflict has involved street protests but has also been fought in the courts.

A lower court ruled March 6 that the law governing the elections was illegal and that its passage by the Islamist-dominated parliament was procedurally improper. Presiding judge Abdel-Meguid el-Muqanen said at the time that the law must be reviewed by the Supreme Constitutional Court and that Morsi needed to consult with his Cabinet before calling an election.

Morsi's office originally said it would respect that verdict. But on Saturday, the Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority -- the government's legal arm -- issued a statement describing the vote suspension ruling as the "total destruction and constriction of the president's ability to carry out his basic authorities." It said the presidency had the right to call an election.

Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud said that the presidency itself did not file the appeal -- rather, the ELSA as the presidency's representative "automatically" appeals any rulings linked to the country's ruling authorities.

Morsi's government has frequently been at odds with the judiciary, particularly after his decision last November to grant himself immunity from judicial supervision. He later revoked this decision, but not before protests had escalated dramatically.

The elections, coming amid a surge of protests, strikes, and economic shortages, are the latest focus of political conflict.

Egypt's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, had called for a boycott, claiming that there were not enough guarantees that the voting would be free and fair. It hailed the court verdict suspending the elections and demanded that the Cabinet ministers charged with overseeing the vote be independents, rather than Morsi's allies.

It also challenged the election law, expressing concerns about gerrymandering by the Brotherhood-dominated parliament.

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