Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

An overwhelming sense of déjà vu

A semi-final draft of election laws divides political parties. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

A semi-final draft of three laws necessary to pave the way for the long-delayed parliamentary election was approved on Monday by the State Council’s Department of Fatwas and Legislation and the government-appointed drafting committee.

The decision came after a three-hour meeting between Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice Ibrahim Al-Heneidi and the Department’s Chairman Magdi Al-Agati. The meeting was attended by members of the drafting committee and Ali Awad, former president Adli Mansour’s advisor for legal and constitutional affairs.

“The meeting on Monday mainly focused on amendments to the Constituencies Law. Deliberations over the laws regulating the House of Representatives and the Exercise of Political Rights are ongoing,” said Heneidi.

Heneidi told parliamentary reporters Monday evening that the semi-final draft of the Constituencies Law will now be referred back to the cabinet.

“The department made some slight changes which will be submitted to the cabinet for endorsement in its plenary meeting on Wednesday or Thursday,” said Heneidi.

The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled the Constituencies Law unconstitutional on 1 March, leading to the postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled to begin on 21 March.

Heneidi said all parties to the meeting had agreed that the total number of parliamentary seats remain unchanged at 596, with 448 (78 per cent) reserved for independents, 120 (17 per cent) for party-based MPs and 28 (5 per cent) for presidential appointees.

“We also decided that the number of constituencies reserved for competition among independents should be 205 instead of 206,” said Heneidi.

“We have ensured the difference in the number of voters between one constituency and another does not exceed 25 per cent, as stipulated by the SCC,” said Heneidi. “Our assessment of the distribution of voters among constituencies was based on population statistics released in May.”

Heneidi revealed three drafts had been produced, targeting a 25 per cent, 20 per cent and 10 per cent difference in the number of voters per constituency. “In the end,” he said, “the 25 per cent option was deemed the most convenient. The other two options would have meant a significant increase in the number of constituencies.”

Constituencies allocated to competition among party lists remain unchanged. “There are still four, while the constituencies reserved for independents have been reduced by one.”

Drafting committee member Rifaat Komsan says that of the 205 constituencies reserved for independents 43 will a single MP, 93 will return two, 49 will return three MPs and 20 will return four.

The division of independent constituencies, Komsan added, had been based on the SCC’s March ruling.

“The SCC stipulated that voter numbers per independent seat should exceed 199,000 or be below 119,000,” said Komsan. “We opted to aim for an average of 159,500 voters per seat.”

Amendments jointly proposed by 32 political parties in April have mostly been rejected.

“While some opposition amendments to the laws on the House of Representatives and the Exercise of Political Rights have been accepted, all of their proposals for changes to the Constituencies Law were rejected,” said Heneidi.

Reform and Development Party Chairman Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat said that “although the amendments proposed by opposition political parties were rejected” he remained optimistic that “the State Council will approve an increase in the number of party list constituencies from four to eight.”

“Whatever the final outcome,” Al-Sadat added, “we all hope the agreement between the council and the committee finally allows parliamentary elections to be held, and that the resulting parliament will not face problems from any constitutional challenges.”

“The division of independent constituencies will make it difficult for candidates with limited funds to compete successfully,” says Tagammu party secretary-general Magdi Sharabeya. “The way the law mixes large and small scale constituencies favours wealthy candidates and places a strain on political parties when it comes to campaign funding.”

The Wafd Party expressed reservations over the draft.

“The council and the government committee failed to respond to opposition demands,” said Wafd Party spokesman Hossam Al-Khouli.

“Instead of increasing the number of independent and party list constituencies they did the opposite, opting to maintain the number of party list constituencies while decreasing the total number of independent ones.”

The Nour Party says “it will contest the coming parliamentary polls irrespective of objections to election laws.”

“We just want be sure the new amendments will not be ruled unconstitutional and that they do actually establish equality among constituencies,” says Nour Party Deputy Chairman Sayed Khalifa.

The Free Egyptians Party also says “it will contest the polls whatever the situation”.

“We want the Constituencies Law to be issued so parties can begin preparing candidates for the campaign,” says party spokesman Wagih Shehab.

“If the three election laws are ratified by president Al-Sisi within a week then the campaign could begin immediately after Ramadan.”

Ahmed Al-Boraie, a former minister of social solidarity and member of the Democratic Current, an alliance of progressive parties, argues “the State Council’s approval that 80 per cent of parliamentary seats be reserved for independent candidates should push political parties into boycotting the election.”

“The system has been tailored to allow wealthy businessmen and candidates with familial and tribal connections to dominate parliament.”

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