Will the IAF MP’s resign?
The Islamist movement is studying how to respond to the convictions of Mohammad Abu Fares and Ali Abu Sukkar, who were convicted of inciting sectarianism by declaring Abu Mussab Zarqawi a martyr on pan-Arab satellite television. The movement had hoped that a statement reaffirming their moderation and loyalty to the state would be enough for the government to somehow make the case disappear from the court system. Now, there are obvious splits over the statement and over how to respond to the issuance of the final verdict by the appeals court. Al Arab Al Yawm promised a “surprise statement” by the IAF during the opening of the new parliament session. This did not materialize, suggesting that things are still being discussed (somebody spoke too soon).
From a constitutional perspective, the two deputies will lose their seats in parliament. Paragraph i of article 75 of the constitution says in part that no person shall become a deputy if they have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment exceeding one year for a non-political offence and has not been pardoned. Paragraph ii of the same article states that “Should any Senator or Deputy become disqualified during his term of office or should it appear after his election that he lacks one or more of the qualifications provided for in the preceding paragraph, his membership shall, by a resolution of two-thirds of the members of the House to which he belongs, be considered nonexistent and vacant, provided that such a resolution, if passed by the Senate, is submitted to the King for ratification”.
Supporters of the deputies will try to argue that the sentence is a political one, and thus article 75 does not apply. However, since the deputies were convicted under article 150 of the penal code, it does not seem that this argument will stick.
This means that the remaining step will be for the parliament to expel the MP’s. However, since this issue has not been listed in the royal decree calling for a special session of parliament, then to discuss this issue would be unconstitutional until parliament convenes for a regular session. This will leave the issue of membership of the deputies and filling their seats until the beginning of October, when the regular session is scheduled to begin.
There are two camps in the Islamist movement discussing their response. The leadership is interested in dropping the issue and moving on. They probably hope that the seats will be filled by internal elections in the parliament rather than through by-elections. Shihan suggested that there is a deal to this effect whereby the two vacant seats will be filled by moderate IAF members. This would be done under article 88 of the constitution, which does not really fit the situation.
The more radical elements in the party are demanding the resignation of all 17 IAF members from the parliament, as a protest against government “targeting” of the movement. It is also likely that a boycott at this stage will translate into a boycott of next year’s legislative elections.
The IAF boycotted the elections of 1997, and remained marginalized as a result until the 2003 elections. In historical terms, this boycott did little to enhance their standing, and is probably considered to have been a mistake. The leadership has been dragging its feet on making a decision, first waiting for the state security court decision, then waiting for the appellate court decision, and now still waiting, apparently for tempers to cool. The question is whether they will.