Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Candidate confusion over medical tests

Last week the Higher Election Committee said election candidates who underwent medical tests in February would not have to repeat them. Then it did a U-turn. So who is fit to run, asks Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

“I paid LE4250 in February for the medical check-ups required to apply to run in the postponed parliamentary elections. Though the Higher Election Committee (HEC) announced last week that candidates who passed medical check-ups in February don’t need to take any new medical tests to be qualified to stand in the mid-October polls we were told on Monday that we would have to take another medical test that costs LE2850,” Fatma Abdel-Aziz, an independent candidate for the constituency of Shubra, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

On Monday the Administrative Court ruled that the HEC decision to accept medical check-ups conducted in February contravened the People’s Assembly Law. The HEC was forced to issue a decree on the same day obliging candidates to undergo new medical tests and to extend the deadline for the submission of the test results by three days.

In response to the court ruling the Health Ministry doubled the number of hospitals where candidates can be tested from 40 to 80.

 “I can’t afford to pay for another medical check-up. The state should cover the cost of the examination for those who are taking it for a second time. After all, it is not the fault of candidates that the elections were postponed,” says Abdel-Aziz.

“The constitution calls for women and young people to take a greater role in the decision making process. Yet the amounts of money required to register as a candidate means that many people are prevented from standing for parliament. The whole system is biased towards the wealthy,” says Abdel-Aziz.  If she fails to gain an exemption from the additional fees Abdel-Aziz says she will not complete the registration procedures.

Elections planned for March and April were postponed when the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled the laws regulating the polls unconstitutional. Candidates who underwent the required medical check-ups before 12 February were charged LE4250. The fee was then reduced to LE2850. Candidates who paid the higher sum were not reimbursed.

“I did my medical check-up on 5 February and paid LE4250. Days later the fee was reduced to LE2850. The government already owes me LE1400 and I will not pay another fee for a new medical test,” says Mohamed Farahat, undersecretary at the Ministry of Education who is seeking to stand as an independent candidate in Shubra.

Raed Ragaba, a would-be independent candidate for Nasr City, also complains about the “arbitrary decision” that forces candidates to undertake a new test and pay for it.

“I cannot afford the additional fees. On Monday afternoon I went to the hospital where I was tested in February and they gave me a sealed statement saying the results of February’s tests remained valid. Yet the Election Commission is still demanding a fresh check-up.”

 Egyptian Social Democratic Party member Ahmed Abu Serei is in the same position.

 “I got a freshly sealed letter from the same hospital stating that my old medical examination remained valid but the electoral committee rejected it. In February I paid LE4250 for my medical test and I refuse to pay for another,” says Abu Serei. “The HEC has flipped and flopped and caused a great deal of confusion by issuing contradictory decisions.”

When the latest registration period opened 3,417 candidates applied to first-degree courts in the first two days, according to HEC figures. But following the debacle over medical tests hopeful candidate numbers have fallen dramatically.

The House of Representatives is slated to contain 596 seats, 448 filled by independents, 120 from party-based lists and 28 by presidential appointees. Egypt has around ‎‎55 million registered voters.‎ 

Following amendments to the electoral constituency law it was announced that the elections would take place in two stages. The first round begins on 17 October and includes expatriates born in the governorates of Giza, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Minya, Assiut, the New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira and Marsa Matrouh. Egyptian residents in the same governorates will vote on 18 and 19 October.

In the second phase expatriates from the remaining governorates — Cairo, Qalyubiya, Daqahliya, Menoufia, Gharbia, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai — cast their votes on 21 and 22 November and residents on 22 and 23 November.

Egypt’s last parliament was dissolved in June 2012 after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled the laws under which it was elected unconstitutional.

Alaa Abdel-Azim, secretary-general of the Free Republic Party, argues that the reluctance of young people to put themselves forward as candidates is largely a result of the financial burdens they would face.

“We have more than 90 young members who are unable to nominate themselves because of the costs involved. How can a young person be expected to pay LE5,700 for two separate medical tests, LE3,000 as a deposit and then also cover the costs incurred by running an election campaign?”

“Nor is the party,” says Abdel-Azim, “in a position to take on the financial burdens on behalf of its candidates.”

Problems are not limited to funding issues. John Fekri, deputy chairman of Free Egyptians Party, complains that one party member, Maged Talaat, has been unable to take the newly required medical test because of a technical glitch.

“Talaat went to the Nasser Institute Hospital to take a new medical test only to be told that the computer system would not accept a new entry since it already contained his relevant data.” 

The whole thing seems farcical, complained Fekri. “But the problem is I don’t know what to do.”

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