Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1130, 10 - 16 January 2013
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1130, 10 - 16 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Islamist rubber stamp

The Shura Council approves the new election law after just two hours’ discussion, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Controversial legislation regulating the upcoming parliamentary election was provisionally approved by Shura Council yesterday. Endorsed by the government of Hisham Kandil on 6 January, the law was rammed through the Shura Council’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 8 January and then approved in a plenary meeting yesterday.

According to Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki, the law was referred to Shura Council after being approved by a majority of political forces in the national dialogue sponsored by President Mohamed Morsi.

“I can say that this law is an excellent reflection of the demands of most political forces concerning the upcoming election,” asserted Mekki.

He indicated that once approved by the council the new election law would be sent to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) for revision “in accordance with Article 177 of the constitution which states that political laws must be vetted by the SCC before they are ratified by the president”.

The Legislative Committee began discussing the law as soon as it was referred to the council on Tuesday. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Salafi members rallied behind the amendments, rubber-stamping the law after just two hours. Taher Abdel-Mohsen, deputy chairman of the committee and a member of the FJP, said “the government’s law does not differ much from legislative amendments proposed by some of the council’s members.”

According to Deputy Justice Minister Omar Al-Sherif the 39-article law includes amendments of the law on the exercise of political rights (Law 73/1956), and on the performance of the People’s Assembly (38/1972).

“The government is currently in the process of amending 70 laws to make them compatible with the new constitution,” said Al-Sherif. “The new election law includes some significant amendments one of which revokes the president’s right to appoint 10 members to the House of Representatives [formerly the People’s Assembly].”

“The most significant amendment is that one list can include candidates fielded by more than one political party or include a group of independents.”

Al-Sherif argued that the law meets some of the demands made by the opposition, including a ban on religious slogans being used during campaigns and on places of worship being used for electioneering.

The law retains the 50 per cent quota of seats for representatives of workers and farmers in accordance with Article 229 of the constitution though, as Al-Sherif explained, it introduces new definitions.

“A farmer must have been involved in agricultural activities for 10 consecutive years while a worker must secure his or her primary income from manual or intellectual business in agriculture or industry or the services sector,” said Al-Sherif.

In line with Article 231 of the new constitution two thirds of House of Representative seats will be elected according to a party-based list system, one third by individual candidacy. Each party-based list must, furthermore, include at least one female candidate. “If the party-based list includes eight candidates, a woman must be among the first four,” said Al-Sherif.

The law also entrusts the Court of Cassation with hearing appeals filed against the results of the election or against individual deputies. 

The Legislative Committee’s Chairman Mohamed Touson further explained that the law stipulates that judges supervise the vote-count and provide a signed copy of the count, auxiliary station by station, to candidates’ representatives, as happened in the presidential election run off. Although this demand was not criticised by the opposition the National Salvation Front (NSF) has said it does not have the capacity to send representatives to every polling station in Egypt. Because the Muslim Brotherhood was able to cover all of Egypt with representatives during last summer’s presidential election it was the first to announce the results of the election.

During the debate some members objected to the amendments. Suzi Nashed and Rami Lakah, two newly-appointed Christian members, said the changes fell short of opposition demands. Al-Sherif responded by asking Lakah and other opposition figures to provide him with a memo including all their requests about the new law so that they can be discussed by the government.

Mamdouh Ramzi, a Christian lawyer appointed to the council by Morsi last month, suggested that Egypt implement a variant of the confessional models adopted by Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, arguing that even in countries where the percentage of Christians is small a quota of seats was guaranteed. Ramzi also argued that Christians must be included on party-based lists because they face difficulty in winning seats as individual candidates in parliamentary elections. “This would ensure the number of Christian MPs increases to a fairer representation in parliament,” said Ramzi.

Nour Party member Osama Fikri opposed the suggestion, insisting it would contribute to “deepening the divide between Muslims and Christians”.

The new election law can be divided into two parts. The first 17 articles aim to regulate the electoral system and polling stations while the second section focuses on ordering the work of House of Representatives. It states that no one can hold seats in both the Shura Council and the House of Representatives. MPs cannot be members of local councils or act as provincial governors or village mayors. Leading officials from the regime of President Hosni Mubarak’s now defunct ruling National Democratic Party cannot present themselves as candidates in elections for a period of 10 years. MPs will also be banned from entering into commercial transactions with government agencies as long as they are members of parliament.

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