Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1393, (10 - 16 May 2018)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1393, (10 - 16 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Political calculus

Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal tells MPs he has asked the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee to begin amending the law regulating parliament, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

 

Support Egypt meeting
Support Egypt meeting

“I am sure that the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which has many legal experts as members, will be able to amend Law 45/2014 regulating parliament in a way that enhances political life and democratic practices in Egypt,” Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs in a plenary meeting on Sunday morning.

Abdel-Aal said he hopes changes to the House law will be in place before municipal elections scheduled before the end of this year.

“We want the electoral system used in parliamentary and municipal elections to be the same, one that reinforces the role of political parties in the House and in local city councils,” said Abdel-Aal.

MPs said the statement had taken them by surprise given the government had announced two months ago that the Legislative Reform Committee was already preparing amendments to the House of Representatives law.

Ihab Al-Tamawi, deputy head of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, told reporters that the law, issued in June 2014 in the absence of a sitting parliament, needs “complete scrutiny after three years of parliamentary performance”.

The House of Representatives law was issued five months after a new constitution was approved in a general referendum in January 2014. The law states that the House will comprise 568 MPs, two thirds to be elected via the individual candidacy system and one third via a list system. The law gives the president the authority to name five per cent of the appointees.

The law also sets out procedures for registration and the roles and duties of elected MPs.

“Our review of the law could lead to changes in the electoral system,” said Al-Tamawi. “Many legal experts argue the majority of MPs [two thirds] should be elected via the list system which would enhance the multi-party system and deepen democratic practices in Egypt.”

“The 2018 presidential election showed political parties are too weak to field a presidential candidate. We want the majority of MPs to be affiliated with political parties which requires that the electoral system be changed. The constitution is flexible on this point. It allows for the adoption of any kind of electoral system that reinforces a strong multi-party system.”

Abdel-Aal’s statement came two weeks after the majority Support Egypt coalition of MPs announced its intention to become a licensed political party. The coalition’s chairman Mohamed Al-Sewidi said a committee had been formed to review the obstacles that might stand in the way of achieving this objective.

According to Al-Sewidi, legislative experts agree there is no constitutional obstacle to the coalition becoming a licensed political party. The one major hurdle is that Article 6 of the House of Representatives law bans MPs from changing their political affiliation once elected.

“Article 6 of the House law could be amended to allow MPs to change their partisan designations,” says Al-Tamawi. “If the stipulation is removed elected MPs will be able to switch alliances and join the new party without losing their seats.”

Abdel-Aal told MPs on Sunday that the current parliament had often been mistakenly described as weak.

“Although the majority of MPs are independent,” he said, “they were keen to join the Support Egypt coalition in order to perform their legislative and supervisory roles in a forceful way.”

“We now hope that one or two major political parties can emerge, able to field presidential candidates and reach power. We want competition inside parliament and in elections and this cannot happen without Egypt having strong political parties.”

Sources say the two largest political parties in parliament — the Free Egyptians with 65 MPs and the Future of Homeland with 53 — have yet to publicly respond to Support Egypt’s invitation to join forces.

Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future of Homeland Party, said a meeting had already been held with the pro-Sisi “All With You for the Sake of Egypt” campaign group to probe the possibility of a merger with Future of the Homeland.

“We hope that the proposed amendments to the House of Representatives Law will make it much easier for political parties to merge to form stronger political units,” said Rashad.

The Wafd Party, which has 36 MPs, is exploring the possibility of aligning with independent MPs to form a stronger opposition coalition in parliament. Hossam Al-Khouli, a leading Wafd figure, said the party does not want independents to join its ranks.

“Opposition forces in parliament are too weak. We want to create an opposition bloc that can exercise supervisory roles in a more effective way,” he said.

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