Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Inching towards elections

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb will meet with representatives of political parties in an attempt to reach a consensus over changes in the election laws. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Inching towards elections
Inching towards elections
Al-Ahram Weekly

On Monday Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice Ibrahim Al-Heneidi sounded confident that a meeting between Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and representatives of mainstream political forces will pave the way for the holding of the long-delayed parliamentary elections. “The meeting is expected by the end of this week or early next week, after Mehleb returns from Ethiopia where he is attending a summit on African economic development,” said Heneidi.

A government-appointed committee headed by Heneidi is close to finalising amendments after two elections laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). “The committee has amended the laws regulating the House of Representatives and setting the boundaries of constituencies. The task is now to bridge the gap with political forces which proposed very different changes to the two laws,” he said.

“Some revolutionary forces are pressing for the constituency law to be completely overhauled rather than amended to comply with the SCC’s limited ruling.”

The SCC recommended the law be changed to eliminate discrimination against independent candidates in constituencies in 13 governorates.

“The committee has rejected proposals involving changes to constituencies not identified by the SCC,” said Heneidi.

Some parties have proposed 40 per cent of seats be reserved for independents, 40 per cent for party candidates, and 20 per cent for underrepresented groups such as women and Copts. “Others propose 40 per cent be allocated to independents, 40 per cent to proportional lists and 20 per cent to absolute or majority lists,” said Heneidi.

“The second proposal risks being ruled unconstitutional. Article 102 of the constitution allows a mix of independent and party list systems but not a mix of two versions of the same electoral system.”

Other political parties proposed seats be divided equally between independent and party candidates.

“The most logical scenario,” argues Heneidi, “is to increase the number of seats reserved for independents by 20 or 21. This will allow for the equality in the distribution of voters between constituencies that the SCC has insisted on.”

Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, chairman of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, disagrees.

“Leftist forces have proposed 40 per cent of seats be allocated to independents, 40 per cent to party candidates, and 20 per cent to underrepresented groups. This not only strikes a balance between independents and party candidates but will help ensure representation from across the political spectrum in a democratic and powerful parliament.”

Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie supports an equal division of seats between independent and party based candidates. “A 50-50 split not only makes it easier to redraw boundaries but will lead to a reduction in vote buying and gradually replace a voting pattern based on family and tribal links with one based on the election platforms of candidates.”

Parties at least agree on one point. The SCC should be allowed to review election laws before they are implemented. “Pre-scrutiny of election legislation will be high on the agenda of Mehleb’s meeting,” says Heneidi.  

Salah Fawzi, professor of constitutional law at Mansoura University and a member of the committee, warns that “the constitution will have to be amended to allow for any pre-scrutiny of laws by the SCC.”

“The current rule is that the SCC can judge a law constitutional or otherwise only after it goes into effect.

“We should also bear in mind that pre-scrutiny does not mean laws will be immune from later challenges. Citizens will still be able to petition the SCC to rule on the constitutionality of laws after they have gone into effect.”

Heneidi has revealed that “in the meeting with Mehleb experts from the drafting committee will argue SCC pre-scrutiny of laws might not be possible.”
The meeting will also address changes to the House of Representatives Law.

“We need to discuss the issue of candidates with dual nationality, and candidates who failed, for whatever reason, to complete their military service,” says Heneidi.

The drafting committee has already finalised changes to Article 8 of the House law in line with the SCC’s 7 March ruling that the political rights of Egyptians with dual nationality, including the right to run for parliament, must be respected.

“The amendment allows Egyptians with dual nationality to stand as candidates. To comply with the nationality law it has been stipulated that naturalised citizens will have the right to run for parliament five years after gaining Egyptian nationality,” says Heneidi.  “Otherwise the final say over whether a candidate with dual nationality is in full exercise of his political and civilian rights will be left to the Higher Electoral Committee (HEC), which is in charge of overseeing polls.”

“Some political parties have also proposed citizens who have not performed military service and who lack an official exemption be allowed to run for parliament.  The proposal was rejected by the committee. A ruling by the SCC in 2007 made it clear that anyone who dodges military service cannot be an MP.”

Heneidi also said the committee opposed proposals limiting parliamentary immunity.

“Articles 112 and 113 of the constitution are very clear on this point. Immunity for MPs is guaranteed so they can fully exercise their parliamentary duties and express opinions freely. Should the prosecution authorities want to take a legal action again an MP they will first have to ask the house.”

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