Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Legal questions

Gamal Essam El-Din reports on the mixed reactions elicited by the official announcement of a new law aimed at regulating the presidential poll

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Al-Ahram Weekly

On 29 January interim President Adli Mansour surprised political forces by announcing that the newly-proposed presidential election law would be put to a national dialogue.

“The dialogue among political factions must be completed by 9 February because the law has to be ratified by 18 February which is when the Presidential Election Commission (PEC) is scheduled to begin preparatory procedures for the poll,” announced Mansour’s constitutional affairs advisor Ali Awad said.

 A completely new law is required to regulate the poll, Awad added, arguing that the huge number of changes required to make law 174 of 2005 comply with the new constitution had rendered a process of amendments impractical.

Law 174 was introduced by Hosni Mubarak to allow multiple-candidate presidential elections rather than the single-candidate referendum specified in the 1971 constitution. The law was then amended by the Islamist-dominated parliament before the 2012 presidential ballot.

Article 1 of the proposed 59-article law states the presidential poll will be held via direct secret ballot. It also stipulates that candidates must be born to Egyptian parents and that they, along with their parents and spouse, must not have held dual nationality, have performed military service (or have been exempted by law), and be above 40 years of age on registration day.

Article 2 states candidates must be endorsed by 20 MPs or a minimum of 25,000 citizens from at least 15 governorates, with a minimum of 1,000 from each.

 In the 2012 presidential election candidates needed the endorsement of 20 MPs or 20,000 citizens from at least 10 governorates, with a minimum of 1,000 from each.

As the poll will be held without a parliament in place the option of acquiring MPs’ endorsements is unavailable.

 Article 3 specifies a five-member Presidential Election Commission (PEC) will supervise the poll until a National Electoral Commission (NEC) can be created. The commission will be chaired by the head of the High Constitutional Court (HCC) and will include the HCC’s first deputy chairman, the first deputy chairman of the Court of Cassation (the highest judicial authority in Egypt), the chairman of Cairo Appeal Court and the first deputy chairman of the State Council (administrative courts). The commission will supervise all aspects of the election, ranging from opening and reviewing the registration process, receiving presidential nominations, checking endorsements, preparing the final list of candidates, fixing the election dates, supervising and monitoring the vote, announcing the results and deciding on appeals.

 Article 7 of the proposed law introduces a radical change by allowing candidates to file appeals against the PEC’s decisions. Appeals must be lodged with the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) within seven days and the SAC must decide on them within ten.

 Amendments introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament in 2012 had made the commission’s decisions final.

While the above change was praised by many political forces some in judicial circles have expressed reservations.

“The new change is a good step especially as it gives a time limit for appeals,” says opposition activist George Ishak. “We want the new president to be completely legitimate. He should come to office clear of any judicial challenge.”

Mohamed Al-Shennawi, a judge with the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), believes the PEC’s orders should be immune to appeals. “Allowing appeals in presidential elections could open the gates of hell and easily cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the elected president and foster a climate of political turmoil,” he said.

Article 10 of the proposed law allows the PEC to issue “certified forms” for prospective candidates to collect endorsements. The endorsements will have to be certified at a public notary office.

The certified endorsement forms must be submitted to the commission at least ten days before the registration period opens, accompanied by the candidates birth certificate, higher education certificate, an admission that he/she is born to Egyptian parents and does not have dual nationality, a criminal record certificate, a military service certificate, a financial statement, his/her address, and LE1,000 as a refundable insurance payment.

Shawki Al-Sayed, a lawyer and former member of the Shura Council, complains “the new law refrains from stipulating that the prospective candidate’s sons and daughters do not hold dual nationality”. According to Al-Sayed, “dual nationality means dual loyalty and this applies to the spouse and children as well as the candidate”.

 Article 15 stipulates the PEC prepare a final list of candidates at least 15 days before the election date. The list will be published in two daily newspapers.

 Article 17 sets a 30-day campaign period that must end two days before polling day.

Candidates are banned by article 18 from using slogans that defame their rivals or harm national unity. Religious slogans are also banned and candidates are prohibited from using public transport or public money for their campaigns.

 Article 19 requires the state-owned media to give equal coverage to all candidates. Article 21 sets a campaign fund ceiling of  LE10 million in the first round and LE2 million in any runoff.

Analyst Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr stresses the importance of the PEC exercising strict control over campaign spending.

“In the 2012 presidential election we saw Islamist candidates spending millions on their campaigns without any checks from the PEC,” says Shukr. “ Muslim Brotherhood sources disclosed that ousted President Morsi had spent LE600 million on his election campaign though the ceiling was set at LE10 million.”

The Youth Coalition of the January Revolution complains “the LE10 million ceiling is very low in a country with 53 million voters spread over 27 governorates” and recommends it be doubled to LE20 million.

Campaign donations, stipulates article 23, must be held in a bank account overseen by the Central Auditing Agency. Donations from foreigners are forbidden.

“In 2012 Islamist candidates received large sums of foreign money without facing any punishment,” says Shukr.

 Articles 26 to 40 regulate voting procedures, while articles 41 to 56 stipulate penalties for infringements. A candidate found to have forged endorsements could face at least six months in jail and a fine of between LE5,000 and LE10,000.

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