Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Gearing up for a new parliament

Preparations for the forthcoming parliamentary elections are due to kick off in ten days time, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

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Al-Ahram Weekly

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is due within the next ten days to ask the seven-member Supreme Elections Commission (SEC) to meet to begin preparations for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Article 230 of the new constitution stipulates that the parliamentary polls must begin within six months of the passing of the national charter. The new constitution was passed by referendum on 18 January.

According to article 4 of the new political rights law, the committee mandated with supervising the first post-constitution parliamentary polls — SEC – must be headed by the chairman of Cairo’s Appeal Court and include another six members:  the two most senior deputies of the chairman of the Court of Cassation; the two most senior deputies of the chairman of the State Council (administrative courts); the chairman of Alexandria’s Appeal Court; and the chairman of Tanta’s Appeal Court.

Article 5 of the law also states that the minister of justice must upgrade the SEC’s make-up so that the president can ask it to meet to prepare for the polls.

On 1 July, the make-up of the SEC was upgraded so that judge Ayman Abbas has become the newly-appointed chairman of Cairo’s Appeal Court after Nabil Salib, the former chairman who led the SEC in supervising last July’s referendum on the new constitution, reached retirement age on 30 June.

The most senior deputies of the chairman of the Court of Cassation have been named as Mohamed Anwar Al-Gabri and Ahmed Gamaleddin, while those of the State Council are Mohamed Qishta and Gamal Nada. The current chairmen of Alexandria and Tanta’s Appeal Courts are Magdi Demian and Ali Hassan, respectively.

Article 7 of the political rights law stipulates that the SEC take charge of setting the dates for registration and voting in the elections. Another law is expected to be issued soon with the objective of redrawing electoral districts.

In a meeting with the editors of Egypt’s newspapers on Sunday, Al-Sisi said that the election of the new parliament would be a milestone in the history of Egypt.

“This parliament will be the third step on the road to restoring stability and security in this country,” Al-Sisi said, adding that “for this parliament to be a new reform step the media need to help raise the awareness of citizens of the necessity of taking the utmost care in selecting their MPs.”

“As parliamentary elections will be held in Egypt within the coming four months, it is important from now on that citizens be made conscious of the necessity of actively participating in the polls,” Al-Sisi said.

He warned that the coming parliament could fall prey to “those who mix religion with politics or who trade in religion. Citizens must move against those who want to take Egypt back to the pre-30 June Revolution and turn the coming parliament into a forum for their hostile schemes and ideology,” he said. 

However, he kept silent about a memo submitted two weeks ago by a number of liberal and leftist forces with suggestions on amendments to the new House of Representatives election law. The liberal Constitution Party said in a statement that as many as 10 political parties had asked al-Sisi to amend the new law so that more parliamentary seats would be decided via party lists.

The new House law specifies that 75 per cent of the seats (420) will be elected via the individual candidacy system, while a mere 20 per cent (120) will be reserved to party-based candidates. The remaining five per cent (27) will be appointed by the president.

The list of political parties and groups that submitted the memo includes the Constitution Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Nasserist Karama Party, Masr Al-Horreya, the Justice Party, and the Bread and Freedom Party.

Most of these political parties, which came into being after the 25 January Revolution, support having more seats via the party lists, arguing that this will ensure fair representation for all groups and reinforce the role of parties in political life.

Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, Chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that most political forces in Egypt had fears that the new House law would help make the coming parliament a replica of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak’s toothless parliaments.

Shukr also argued that by reserving around 75 per cent of the seats to independents, the political parties would be obliged to spend millions on campaigning.

“This is beyond the financial capacity of the new liberal and leftist political parties, which will be forced to seek political alliances in a desperate bid to gain seats in the new parliament,” he said. 

Meanwhile, two major alliances including older political forces are being formed in preparation for the polls. Amr Moussa, Egypt’s former high-profile foreign minister and chairman of the 50-member committee which drafted the new constitution, was scheduled to meet with representatives of several political forces on Tuesday in a bid to form one bloc capable of strongly competing in the coming polls.

Moussa said the name of the bloc, expected to be the “alliance of civil forces,” would be decided during the meeting.

Moussa’s alliance is expected to include the liberal Al-Wafd Party, the leftist Tagammu Party, the liberal Free Egyptians Party, and the leftist Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, Chairman of the liberal Reform and Justice Party, said that “although efforts aimed at forming one alliance for political civil forces have not yet come into full swing, I have high hopes that Moussa will be able to find common ground among these forces.”

“Each member of this alliance knows full well that it would not be able to win seats if it ran alone or on its own” he said. As a result, “most political parties are ready to join electoral alliances.”

However, Al-Sadat indicated that several obstacles still stood in the way of possible alliances. “There are differences over what candidates should be fielded by each party and what financial contributions each party should make to the election campaign,” he said.

Another group of politicians who are rivals to the Islamist and revolutionary forces is also in the process of forming a political alliance. These come under the umbrella of the so-called “Misr Baladi” or “Egypt My Homeland” group and are led by former interior minister Ahmed Gamaleddin.

Mustafa Bakri, a leftist journalist and a leading official of Misr Baladi, said that it had succeeded in recent weeks in convincing a number of high-profile figures to run on its ticket. “We are in the process of preparing lists of high-profile candidates who are politicians, former cabinet ministers and provincial governors, and former MPs, artists, and journalists,” he said.

In another development last week, the Egyptian Popular Current, founded by former presidential election candidate and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, said it would form a political party in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary polls. Masoum Marzouq, a senior official with the Current, stated that it was time for the Egyptian Popular Current to compete in the coming parliamentary polls as a political party reflecting the ideals of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June.

Other reports, however, have indicated that the Egyptian Popular Current and the Karama Party will merge into one political party.

Sabahi stressed the importance of participating in the forthcoming parliamentary polls. “Boycotting the parliamentary elections is a sign of weakness and does not help the current political situation in Egypt to move forward,” he said.

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