Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Ready to be ratified

Egypt’s three election laws are in their final stages of revision. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

“The election laws have now been revised by the State Council’s legislative and constitutional experts and are ready to be endorsed by the cabinet,” says Salah Fawzi, professor of constitutional law at Mansoura University and a member of a government-appointed committee charged with drafting the three laws.

Fawzi told parliamentary reporters on Sunday that after a month long revision by the State Council the laws were referred back to Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidi on 17 June.

“If they are endorsed by the cabinet this week the amendments could be ratified by president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi within days, allowing parliamentary elections to be held in September.”

Fawzi’s statements followed an announcement by Magdi Al-Agati, chairman of the State Council’s Department of Legislation and Fatwas, that the Council had finalised its revisions of the three laws regulating the division of electoral constituencies, the workings of the House of Representatives and the exercise of political rights.

“We hope our revision will ensure the three laws do not face any constitutional challenges and finally open the way for parliamentary elections,” said Agati.

Parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held in March, were postponed after the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled differences in the numbers of voters in independent constituencies were unconstitutional.

On Monday Al-Heneidi told reporters he had received the revised amendments and them to be discussed at the cabinet’s next plenary meeting.

“I have sent a copy of the revised amendments to the Higher Election Commission (HEC) to see whether it has any remarks,” said Al-Heneidi.

Al-Agati revealed the State Council had recommended minor changes, most of them to the constituencies law. “We recommended changes to a limited number of independent constituencies in Cairo and the governorates of Minya and Qena.”

“In Cairo we suggested the constituencies of Al-Ameriya, Al-Zeitoun, Helwan, Al-Maasara, Al-Khalifa and Al-Darb Al-Ahmar remain separate and each return two MPs.”

“We also recommended the Minya constituencies of Maghagha and Al-Idwa be merged. In Qena we recommended the constituencies of Qaft and Qena join together and return four MPs, and the constituency of Qous remain separate and return two.”

The State Council, said Al-Agati, had insisted that voter numbers per constituency be determined on the basis of population figures reported in May rather than January.

According to Al-Agati, “differences between the January and May statistics were sufficient to justify changing the boundaries of some constituencies”.

The Council and the drafting committee also agreed the House of Representatives law be amended to allow Egyptians with dual nationality to stand in parliamentary elections and fixed the campaign spending ceiling for party lists at LE7.5 million per constituency returning 45 MPs.

Al-Heneidi said the government-appointed drafting committee, which he heads, will take the “State Council’s recommendations into consideration, together with the HEC’s remarks, before we refer the draft of the constituencies law to the cabinet”.

“The fact the State Council made so few recommendations suggests the three election laws will be very close to the committee’s draft.”

“The council was most concerned with ensuring the difference in the number of voters between one constituency and another did not exceed the 25 per cent set as a limit by the SCC. It raised no objections to the absolute list system which several political parties had insisted be replaced by proportional representation,” said Al-Heneidi.

The State Council and the government committee also agreed the number of parliamentary seats remain unchanged at 596, and constituencies reserved for competition among party lists remain unchanged at four.

Al-Heneidi said he had no knowledge of any legislative moves to prevent constitutional challenges being lodged against the newly elected parliament.

This week’s press has been full of reports of attempts to immunise the House of Representatives from future legal challenge. The stories claim laws are being drafted that will prevent parliament from being dissolved should the SCC rule any of the parliamentary election laws unconstitutional.

Those who support the move argue it is necessary to guarantee that parliament can operate efficiently. Political parties insist that the change is necessary to foil any attempts to further delay parliamentary elections.

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