Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Careful choices

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi urges political parties to exercise caution in selecting parliamentary candidates, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Higher Elections Committee (HEC) in charge of supervising parliamentary polls held its first formal meeting on Sunday after changes to four laws were ratified, paving the way for the vote to be held. The committee has been meeting informally for months.

The meeting, says HEC spokesman Omar Marawan, discussed the changes to article 25 of the law on the exercise of political rights (law 45 of 2014).

“The article has now been re-amended to guarantee equality between independent and party-based candidates in terms of campaign spending,” says Marawan.

“The committee reviewed procedures necessary to ensure lists of 15 party candidates do not exceed the spending limits of LE2.5 million in the first round and LE1 million in case of a run-off, and lists of 45 party candidates stick to the ceiling of LE7.5 million in the first round and LE3 million in any run-off round.”

The article had been prioritised by the HEC, said Marawan, because of concern among political parties that the spending limits might be broken.

With so many wealthy businessmen seeking to stand for parliament it is essential the HEC is in a position to ensure spending limits are adhered to strictly, says Nabil Zaki, spokesman of the Tagammu Party.

“Wealthy independent candidates are ready to spend millions to secure a parliamentary seat. What they want is to replicate the mix of politics and business that so marred the [Hosni] Mubarak years,” claims Zaki.

Sunday’s meeting also reviewed the role of the HEC’s affiliated sub-committees across Egypt’s 27 governorates.

“The committee needs to ensure the sub-committees are ready to begin their work as soon as the door for candidate registration opens since they must process application requests and prepare the final lists of candidates,” says Marawan.

The HEC’s secretariat-general, led by Nasreddin Sheashaa, is already reviewing the lists of judges who will be in charge of supervising the election process in different governorates.

“The lists are in need of updating. It is up to the HEC to guarantee they are complete ahead of the vote,” says Marawan.

Sunday’s meeting was the first to be held since three members of the seven-member committee reached retirement age. On 13 August President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree confirming that Ayman Abbas, chairman of Cairo Appeal Court, will retain his position as head of the committee. The other committee members are Mustafa Shafik and Adel Al-Shorbagy, deputy chairmen of the Court of Cassation, Mohamed Qishta and Magdi Al-Agati, deputy chairmen of the State Council, Sirri Al-Gammal, chairman of Alexandria’s Appeal Court and Ahmed Sabri Youssef, chairman of Tanta Appeal Court.

Al-Sisi’s decree also named six judges as reserve members. They are deputy chairmen of the Court of Cassation Abdel-Gawwad Mahmoud and Onsi Emara; deputy chairmen of the State Council Mahmoud Raslan and Mohamed Moussa; Chairman of Al-Mansoura Appeal Court Ibrahim Abdel-Malek and the Chairman of Al-Ismailiya Appeal Court Fatahalla Okasha.

Meanwhile, Al-Sisi urged political parties to select candidates for the coming parliamentary polls with care.

In a speech at a cultural seminar organised by the army’s department of morale and held at the Galaa Theatre in Heliopolis Al-Sisi announced that the army and police would be jointly responsible for securing the poll.

“The new constitution gives parliament greater powers in terms of legislation and supervision,” says Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie. “The president’s wants to make sure the MPs who exercise these enhanced powers are of the highest possible calibre.”  

Rabie argues Al-Sisi’s remarks also reflect concern that the Muslim Brotherhood might infiltrate parliament.

Secular political parties, he says, have yet to fill the vacuum left by the dissolution of the Mubarak-era National Democratic Party (NDP) and the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Not only are the current crop of political parties restricted to urban areas, they have failed to the forge the kind of electoral coalitions that might secure a convincing parliamentary majority,” says Rabie.

In recent days the media has been running headlines on power struggles that threaten to divide Egypt’s oldest political party, the Wafd. The conflict began in May when an estimated 1,000 Wafdists withdrew confidence from party Chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi.

Al-Sisi intervened to mediate between the two rival factions, warning that a divided Wafd Party might result in a parliament lacking strong, secular voices. His appeal for unity was to no avail. Fouad Badrawi, the grandson of Wafd Party leader Fouad Seraggeddin, who heads a splinter group of Wafdists calling themselves the Reform Current, told reporters that “Al-Badawi acts like a dictator opposed to democratising the party” and revealed the party faces “a severe financial crisis that might prevent its mouthpiece newspaper from coming out”.  

In a meeting held on Saturday the Wafd Reformers accused Al-Badawi of squandering the party’s liberal heritage and increasing its financial woes.

In response Al-Badawi accused the rival “reformers” of doing their best to undermine the party to further their personal interests.

The Dostour (Constitution) Party is also mired in disputes. Founded by ex-UN diplomat Mohamed Al-Baradei as a liberal revolutionary force following the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, the Dostour has led criticisms of the performance of Al-Sisi and his government.

In a meeting held on Saturday the party’s so-called Council of Elders accused Dostour chairwoman Hala Shukrallah of monopolising power. The meeting said Shukrallah’s invitation to elect a new leader should be ignored. In response Shukrallah said the Council of Elders had no authority to cancel decisions on internal elections.

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