New blood at the Bar – Egypt – Al-Ahram Weekly

Abdel-Halim Allam was elected head of the lawyers’ union after a landslide victory on Sunday. Allam, who leads the union’s branch in Alexandria, won 25,276 votes. The second, Nabil Abdel-Salam, head of the Ismailia branch of the Syndicate, won 15,000 votes.

Allam, 59, a graduate of Alexandria University Law School, was born in Sohag Governorate in Upper Egypt. In 2010, he was elected to the People’s Assembly, becoming head of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. He has been the head of the branch of the union in Alexandria since 2012. ≠≠

“I am a former MP and have been active in the union for 30 years. I think it gives me a lot of experience that I can use to improve the living conditions of lawyers across Egypt,” Allam said after his election. He added that he would turn to experienced lawyers and seek their advice, “particularly in the field of modifying the law regulating the exercise of the profession”.

Allam also heads For the Sake of Egypt, an NGO established in 2016 by members of the pro-regime Mostaqbal Watan party that seeks to prepare young people to become future political, administrative and business leaders.

Allam’s victory, commentators say, was all but guaranteed when his two main rivals, Sameh Ashour and Montasser Al-Zayat, were barred from the ballot by the Administrative Court of Justice a week before polling day.

Ashour, a Nasserite politician and appointed member of the Senate, served three terms as head of the union between 2001 and 2020. He was expelled on the grounds that he had not resigned from the Senate as stipulated in the constitution. Ashour reacted to his exclusion by filing an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, asking that the election be postponed until the appeal is resolved.

Ashour told the court that he only decided to contest the union elections after submitting a request to resign to the Senate and requesting a rerun of the contest.

Al-Zayat, 66, is a high profile Islamist lawyer who was arrested in 1981 following the assassination of President Anwar Al-Sadat. Al-Zayat also appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court, but his petition was dismissed on August 30.

“I was disqualified from participating in the elections on the grounds that I insulted the judiciary, which is wrong,” Al-Zayat said.

Magdy Sakhi, the acting head of the Bar Association, said that if the Supreme Administrative Court rules in favor of Ashour, a new election will be held.

There was consensus among commentators that the exclusion of Ashour and Al-Zayat contributed to low turnout. The judicial committee overseeing the poll said turnout in Cairo, Alexandria and most Nile Delta governorates was average at best, and outside those areas it was low.

The last time the Bar Association held an election was in 2020, when Ragaai Attia, head of the Arab Lawyers Union, won. The latest vote was triggered after Attia died in March, aged 84, while attending a court hearing.

*A version of this article appeared in the September 8, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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Andrew B. Reiter