Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

New electoral equations

The law on the division of electoral constituencies is being amended. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The government-appointed committee charged with amending the electoral constituencies law and House of Representatives law, both ruled unconstitutional earlier this month by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), met on Tuesday. The committee is led by Ibrahim Al-Heneidi, the minister for parliamentary affairs and transitional justice.

Al-Heneidi told parliamentary reporters that the committee will also revise the law governing the exercise of political rights to ensure it contradicts neither the constitution nor the changes to the two other election laws ruled necessary by the SCC.

“The committee has been holding meetings since 9 March to discuss the SCC’s rulings and examine how they can be put into effect,” said Al-Heneidi.

After a string of delays, the long-promised parliamentary elections were finally scheduled for two rounds, to be held between 21 and 22 March and 6 and 7 May. Some 7,416 candidates registered between 8 and 19 February, before the SCC’s rulings meant the poll was put on hold.

The committee, said Al-Heneidi, has examined 45 proposals submitted by political forces for changes to the law.

Article 8 of the House of Representatives law will be amended to allow citizens with dual nationality to stand in parliamentary elections, says Ali Abdel-Al, a professor of constitutional law and committee member.

“There is a consensus among the committee members that the new text must stipulate that candidates with dual nationality must demonstrate they acquired their second nationality legally,” said Abdel-Al.

“Foreigners who hold Egyptian nationality must show that this nationality was granted by an official order from the interior minister and Egyptians who hold foreign nationality must present documents proving that they acquired that nationality through normal legal channels.”

He continued, “Article 8’s other stipulations — that candidates have performed military service, hold a basic education certificate and are more than 25 years in age — will be kept in place.

“I do not think that anyone will go to the SCC to argue these stipulations are unconstitutional. The SCC has ruled before that military service is a national duty to be performed by all Egyptians, including MPs.”

The biggest challenge facing the committee, says Abdel-Al, is changing the electoral constituencies law, not least because “first we will need to collate the most recent data about the number of voters and population density in each constituency.”

In its 1 March ruling the SCC found unacceptable discrepancies in the numbers of voters per constituency in 13 governorates. The SCC advised that the difference in the number of voters between one constituency and another should not exceed 25 per cent. To facilitate the committee’s job, the SCC recommended it aim for an average of 168,000 voters per constituency.

The committee, says Abdel-Al, is examining three possibilities. It could tweak the boundaries of constituencies in an attempt to equalize voter numbers while retaining the current number of seats reserved for competition between independent candidates.

It could redraw boundaries in a way that would require additional seats being allocated to independents, or it could review the number of voters on a governorate-by-governorate basis in the hopes of finding a formula that would allow for the merging of some constituencies and the division of others in a way which would not require the creation of more independent seats.

The big plus, says Abdel-Al, is that the SCC’s ruling applies to only 13 out of 27 governorates.

Many political observers have criticised the committee for moving too slowly in completing the required redrafting of laws before elections can be held.

“The SCC’s rulings were clear cut and indicated how the committee should proceed in drafting the required amendments,” says Al-Ahram political analyst Wahid Abdel-Meguid.

“It is a job that should be finished in a matter of days, yet the committee is proceeding at a glacial pace. It is as if they are seeking to delay the polls forever.”

Abdel-Meguid recommends that any new election timetable be restricted to a month rather than a month and half, which should “make it possible for parliament to convene before Ramadan begins on 18 June.”

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