Egypt’s Student Union Controversy Widens Over Disqualification of Member

Egypt’s Student Union Controversy Widens Over Disqualification of Member

Cairo University Student Union elections, Nov. 22. Photo by Mousa el-Zarif / Aswat Masriya
Cairo University Student Union elections, Nov. 22. Photo by Mousa el-Zarif / Aswat Masriya

By Nourhan Fahmy, Aswat Masriya

The Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education published a six-point statement Saturday regarding the recent controversy surrounding Egypt’s newly elected country-wide student union.

The ministry stressed in its statement that the committee entrusted with supervising the elections is an independent body, unaffiliated with the ministry.

The report issued by the committee on Thursday had nullified the candidature and election of Zagazig University student Ahmed Attia for the post of Vice-President of the Zagazig Student Union. This entails the reopening of candidacy for the aforementioned post, and the nullification of Attia’s vote in Egypt’s country-wide student union elections on the posts of president and vice-president, according to the statement.

The nullification of Attia’s vote meant there will be a re-election for the posts of president and vice-president.

The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) clarified in a statement Friday that the decision for re-election does not mean that the whole student union would be dissolved. It only leads to the cancellation of Abdallah Nour’s and Amru El-Helw’s election results. The two independent students were previously announced as having won the seats of president and vice president consecutively.

The ministerial statement added that claims regarding the dissolution of the union were unfounded as the ministry has yet to ratify election results to this date, meaning that the union has not been established in order to be dissolved.

The ministry decided to resort to expert legal opinion on the matter in order to arrive at a conclusion regarding the admissibility of the student union elections results despite the procedural errors already announced by the committee.

In an effort to counter accusations leveled at it for involvement in the election results, the ministry resorted to a prominent judge in the Consultation and Legislations department of the State Council for expert legal opinion. The Ministry will follow through with the outcome of that legal opinion.

The ministry calls on Egypt’s larger student union to performs its duties and uphold its promises towards the students once the legal conundrum is finalised and it is officially elected.

Following the committee’s report on Thursday, various student movements denounced what they perceived as the ministry of higher education’s decision to dissolve Egypt’s newly elected country-wide student union, claiming the ministerial decision was made after independent student representatives won a large number of seats.

Minister of Higher Education Ashraf El-Sheehy said that the university-level student union elections were transparent, but that the concern was with Egypt’s country-wide student union.

Student elections this year took place after a halt on elections began in 2013. The elections took place on 16 November. Cairo University president, Gaber Nassar, previously told Aswat Masriya that student elections will be conducted in accordance with the university bylaws and the university administration will not interfere in the process.

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Aswat Masriya is a Thomson Reuters Foundation-sponsored website that covers Egypt's transition to democracy.

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