Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1242, (16-22 April 2015)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1242, (16-22 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Election laws, mark two

The committee charged with redrafting laws that must be in place before parliamentary elections are held is expected to finish its work this week. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice Ibrahim Al-Heneidi told reporters this week that changes to two laws necessary before Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary elections can be held are likely to be endorsed by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi before the end of the month.

Al-Heneidi said the amendments, if accepted by the cabinet, will be referred to the State Council’s Department of Legislation and Fatwas before being forwarded to the president. Al-Sisi’s endorsement will give a green light to the Higher Election Committee (HEC) to set a date for the polls.

The latest delay in holding parliamentary elections occurred when the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled two election laws unconstitutional.

The government-appointed drafting committee, headed by Al-Heneidi, met on Sunday and Tuesday this week. In the first meeting the committee rejected amendments proposed by political parties during their meetings with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb between 2 and 9 April on the grounds that the changes demanded, which included increasing the number of seats reserved for party based candidates, surpassed those required by the SCC.

Instead, says Al-Heneidi, boundaries of constituencies reserved to competition among independents will be redrawn to ensure a greater balance among them in terms of number of voters. Al-Heneidi indicated that the redrawing of constituencies will entail increasing the number of seats allocated to independents by 22 seats to reach 442 seats and hence increasing the total number of parliamentary seats from 567 seats to 589 seats.

Al-Heneidi further disclosed that the committee had turned down proposals that the SCC be allowed to scrutinise election laws before they come into effect.

On the House of Representatives law, Al-Heneidi said article 8 will be amended to allow Egyptians with dual nationality to run for parliament though, for the time being at least, it will continue to bar those who have failed to complete military service without a valid reason from standing in elections.

“The House law was reviewed article by article,” said Al-Heneidi, “and the latest statistics regarding voter numbers pored over to eradicate large differences between voter numbers in each constituency.”

Sources say there will be two other changes to the House law. The first sets the same ceiling for campaign spending among independent and party based candidates while the second ensures that female MPs, who had been allowed to change their parliamentary designations – from worker to farmer or professional and vice versa — will now, like male MPs, be barred from doing so.

According to Al-Heneidi, last week’s three-session national dialogue with Mehleb exposed divisions among political parties.

“A majority of participants opposed radical changes to the constituencies law and were relaxed about the possibility of elections being held after Ramadan. A smaller number demanded a radical overhaul of the laws and wanted elections before Ramadan,” said Al-Heneidi.

“The compromise we are aiming for is to open the door for candidate registration before Ramadan and the two part poll after the holy month is over.”

Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, chairman of the Wafd Party, criticised last week’s national dialogue as “yet another waste of time.”

“It only aim appeared to be to further delay the elections rather than stake out common ground. It was pretty clear the drafting committee had been instructed not to make any significant change to the constituencies’ law, especially in terms of allocating more seats to party candidates, because officials believe this will allow Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers to enter parliament.”

Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie argued that the dialogue was intended to expose divisions among political parties rather than reach any kind of national consensus.
“I think the government wanted to use this dialogue to send a message to the public that political parties are weak, are riddled with conflicting interests and cannot be trusted,” he says.

But Rabie does not expect parties to boycott the polls “simply because their requests during the dialogue were rejected.”

“Theoretically, parties which opted to run when registration for the aborted election opened last February could withdraw but they are unlikely to do so. They know this will undermine their interests on the long run.”
Mohamed Sami, chairman of the Karama Party goes further. “The dialogue,” he insists, “served only to tarnish the image of political parties.”

“We need to remember these meetings happened despite President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi requesting the committee to finalise amendments to the election laws by the end of March,” Sami said during a TV interview. “We must ask ourselves why, instead of meeting this deadline, the government suddenly decided to hold a counter-productive national dialogue.”

“All they want is to delay the polls. We knew in advance the drafting committee would only accept cosmetic amendments.”
Constitutional law professor Ali Abdel-Al, a member of the committee, accused Egypt’s mainstream political parties of being “mired in conspiracy theories”.

“They always seek to blame the government for their own failures,” he said.

“Unlike Islamist political parties they are more interested in appearing on television screens than building up grass-root support,” Abdel-Al told Al-Ahram Weekly. “They came to the meeting without having formulated any workable proposals, in contrast with the Salafist Nour Party which looked solid and urged all the time for unity.”

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