Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1224, (4 - 10 December 2014)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1224, (4 - 10 December 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Redrawing constituencies

A new draft of the electoral districts law seeks to pave the way for parliamentary polls, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Parliament
Parliament
Al-Ahram Weekly

The long-awaited electoral districts law, the last obstacle in the way of Egypt’s parliamentary polls, was scheduled to be discussed by the cabinet in a plenary meeting yesterday.

Minister of Transitional Justice and House of Representatives Affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidi, told parliamentary reporters this week that the seven-member technical committee formed in October by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb had decided to submit a new draft of the law following consultations with political parties.

Sources close to the committee say the new draft includes significant revisions, most relating to constituencies reserved for independent candidates. It is now thought there will be between 220 to 250 of such constituencies. Depending on the number of registered voters within constituency boundaries, they will return between one to three representatives.

Initial suggestions were that 420 constituencies should be created, each returning a single independent MP. “This proposal was scrapped on logistical grounds,” Ali Abdel-Al, a constitutional law professor and a member of the technical committee, said during a television interview on Monday night.

Political parties agreed that a one MP per constituency formula would be difficult to implement, said Abdel-Al. “They argued that it would be hugely problematic to balance population density and registered voters in so many newly created constituencies.”

Bahaa Abu Shoka, legal expert and leading member of the Wafd Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “some existing constituencies include more than 300,000 registered voters while others contain 100,000 or less.”

The House of Representatives law stipulates that Egypt’s new parliament comprise 567 seats, 120 for party-based candidates, 420 for independents and 27 for presidential appointees.

The new proposals, Abdel-Al continued, involve the creation of 82 constituencies that will return a single independent MP, 124 which will return two MPs and 29 to return three MPs, spreading the 420 independent MPs stipulated by the House of Representatives law across 235 constituencies. The divisions, he stressed, still have to be endorsed by the cabinet and political forces.

Al-Heneidi stressed that the new proposals have the advantage of all necessary data — including population density and distribution of registered voters — being readily available.

Abdel-Al said the committee had paid particular attention to ensuring border governorates such as North Sinai are fairly represented.

Constituencies reserved for competition among party-based candidates remain as prescribed in the first draft of the law, says Abdel-Al. The 120 successful deputies drawn from party lists will have battled it out in four constituencies, two of which will return 45 deputies each and the remaining two 15.

Abdel-Al explained that the new draft proposes that constituencies returning a single MP contain around 110,000 registered voters. This will involve merging some constituencies in sparsely populated areas such as North Sinai and the Red Sea governorates where existing constituencies can contain just 80,000 voters.

Halayeb and Shalatin, which lies on Egypt’s border with Sudan, will be considered one constituency. The area remains a bone of contention between Cairo and Khartoum, with Sudan claiming it is part of Sudanese territory.

If it is approved by cabinet a final draft of the law will be sent to the State Council’s Legislative Department to ensure it is free from complies fully with the constitution. This is the final step before parliamentary elections can be held.

Parliamentary polls are the third and final part of the political roadmap adopted following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, 2013. The first step was completed when a new constitution was approved by public referendum in January 2014 and the second when presidential elections were held in May.

Most political forces say they will contest the parliamentary polls regardless of any reservations they may have over the legislative framework in which the vote is held, though the Democratic Current, a grouping of small liberal and leftist parties, said they would contest parliamentary polls only if legislation regulating the vote — the House of Representatives and electoral district laws — is amended. The Democratic Current demands the number of seats reserved for party-based candidates be increased from 120 to 180.

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