Military council approves ban on religious parties

Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) approved on Monday a draft amendment to the law banning the formation of political parties based on religion.

The law will go into effect on Tuesday, Assistant Defense Minister Major General Mamdouh Shahin said in a press conference. He said the changes will facilitate the formation of political parties over the upcoming period.

The amendment, said Shahin, takes the exclusive authority to turn down applications for new parties from the Shura Council's Political Parties Affairs Committee. He said the clause allowing the government to provide parties with financial support has also been removed.

Based on the modified law, parties can be established through notification. The parties committee will be purely judicial, and administrative bodies will not play a role in forming new parties.

The regime of toppled president Hosni Mubarak tightly controlled the formation of political parties through the committee, which was headed by the Shura Council speaker — usually a member of the formerly-ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Under Mubarak’s rule, the committee prevented parties from political activity and delayed the recognition of parties for as long as 15 years, as was the case with the Wasat Party.

The amendments stipulate that the committee will now be headed by the Court of Cassation vice president, aided by two State Council deputy chairmen.

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