Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

A list too far

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s proposal that political parties form a single electoral coalition to contest parliamentary elections has been hailed by some as an attempt to place national interests above ideological concerns, and denounced by others as a wishful thinking. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

On Tuesday a meeting was held between political parties sympathetic to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s call for a single bloc to be formed ahead of parliamentary elections.

The Egyptian Front Party (EFP), formed by Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik, said the meeting had been convened to act on Al-Sisi’s call.

“We are coordinating with more than 30 political parties to see how a joint electoral coalition can be formed,” said EFP deputy chairman Yehia Kadri.

“A joint national electoral list is possible if political parties put their ideological differences aside. We need to temporarily forget ideologies at in favour of national interests.”

In this context, said Kadri, the liberal Wafd and the Salafist Al-Nour, two political parties with completely contrasting ideologies, were invited to the meeting.

Nagi Al-Shehabi, chairman of the Geel Party and a member of the Egyptian Front coalition, argues that Al-Sisi’s initiative will not only allow the majority of political parties to gain a foothold in parliament but help exclude remnants from the Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood regimes from doing so.

“Al-Sisi’s call for a joint list might seem a romantic idea but it is possible and does not contradict with democracy. National coalitions are found everywhere in the world. Political parties with different ideologies join electoral coalitions to gain parliamentary seats. Once this objective is achieved their representatives in parliament can act as an independent parliamentary bloc.”

“In his meeting with political parties on 27 May Al-Sisi was clear that he wants parliamentary elections held as soon as possible and hopes political parties will join forces instead of running separate lists,” says Ahmed Al-Fadali, chairman of the Independence Current and a staunch supporter of the president.

The Wafd Party is adamant that “it will not be part of any national joint electoral list” though, as Wafd Party chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi is keen to point out, “this does not mean we will not attend meetings aimed at coordinating with other political parties” over election strategy. The Wafd is already a member of For the Love of Egypt, an umbrella grouping of political forces broadly supportive of the status quo.

On the other side of the political divide, revolutionary parties say a single national list is not only impractical, it is undemocratic.

Medhat Al-Zahed, deputy chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, says arguments that it is a way of keeping remnants from the Mubarak regime out of parliament are false.

“The election laws allocate the vast majority of parliamentary seats — 448 — to independent candidates, opening the gates to a tidal wave of businessmen and cronies from the Mubarak-era.”

Al-Zahed draws attention to the failure of previous attempts, headed by Mubarak-era officials Amr Moussa and Kamal Al-Ganzouri, to form national lists. It is no coincidence, he says, that the only groups to say they will heed Al-Sisi’s call, the Egyptian Front and the Independence Current, are inextricably linked to the regime of Egypt’s former strongman.

The Democratic Current, a coalition of liberal and leftist revolutionary forces, also questions the practicality of Al-Sisi’s call.

“It is obviously very difficult for political parties with different ideologies to join a single electoral list,” says Ahmed Al-Borei, a leading member of the Democratic Current. “It would be far more realistic for political parties which espouse the ideals of the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June to join together and contest the poll on a single platform.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidi met on Monday with Magdi Al-Agati, chairman of the State Council’s Department of Legislation and Fatwas, to discuss changes to three key election laws. Amendments drafted by a government appointed committee were referred to the council on 29 April for review.

According to Heneidi, the council has approved the committee’s changes to the law on exercise of political rights, and legislation regulating the workings of the House of Representatives.

Committee member Salah Fawzi told reporters on Sunday that several revisions suggested by political parties had been rejected.

“We rejected proposals to raise campaign spending ceilings for party lists from LE7.5 million to LE22 million on the grounds that it would open the door wide to the possibility of votes being bought.”

“A proposal to increase the number of constituencies reserved for competition between party lists was also rejected. While in principle the committee was sympathetic to the increase it decided, there was too little time to redraft the laws to allow for the increase now.”

“Proposals seeking to scrap the absolute list system in favour of a proportional system were also dismissed, on the grounds that proportional lists would contravene articles 243 and 244 of the constitution which stipulate all lists include representatives of women, Copts, expatriates and the handicapped.”

According to Heneidi, political parties did not suggest any significant changes to the electoral constituencies law.

“We explained to the State Council what proposals were received and why the committee rejected them. Hopefully the council will complete its revision of all three laws within a week.”

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