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Egypt electoral ‎constituencies’ law ratified: What next

President El-Sisi's ratification of the electoral constituencies law paves the ‎way for Egypt's long-awaited parliamentary polls a contest that politicians say can not be one by any single party

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 23 Dec 2014
People walk in front of parliament in Cairo (Photo: reuters)
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After a long, six-month wait, Egyptian President ‎Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi eliminated the last obstacle ‎standing in the way of the country's parliamentary polls. On ‎Monday, El-Sisi ratified a new electoral constituencies law, a step yielding the beginning of the long-delayed ‎parliamentary polls process.‎

Parliamentary elections are the third and final component of the ‎political roadmap adopted following the ouster of former ‎Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013, as a new ‎constitution was approved by referendum in January 2014 and ‎presidential elections were held in May.‎

In a meeting with parliamentary reporters this week, Minister of ‎Transitional Justice and House of Representatives Ibrahim El-‎Heneidy indicated that El-Sisi ratified the ‎constituencies law before he left for China on Sunday.

"Right ‎now, the law is in its final form but it still has to be published in the ‎state's official gazette in to be formally effective," said ‎El-Heneidy, expecting that this will be done on Tuesday or ‎Wednesday.‎

El-Heneidy explained that once the law is promulgated, the Higher ‎Elections Committee (HEC) – a seven-member judicial body ‎mandated with supervising the polls – will meet to set dates for ‎registration and the vote. According to El-Heneidy, "El-Sisi's ‎ratification of the law has put an end to the president's role in ‎this respect, while the next stage will be completely the ‎responsibility of HEC which has to meet to announce the poll's ‎final procedures."‎

He refused to guess when exactly registration for the polls ‎will begin. "This is the responsibility of the HEC but I think it will ‎begin in January and last for ten days," said El-Heneidy.‎

El-Heneidy also said the HEC may decide to hold the polls over three or ‎four stages, with each stage including a number of governorates. ‎This means that polls may last anywhere between one and ‎two months.

For his part, HEC's spokesperson, judge Medhat Idris said Monday ‎night that the committee will hold a meeting very soon to ‎announce a timetable for the polls.

"This will include setting ‎dates for registration, campaigning, appeals and stages of the ‎vote," said Idris, also explaining that "once HEC sets a date for ‎registration and the vote, the door for any change in voter lists ‎will be closed.”‎

HEC is headed by chairman of Cairo's Appeal Court Ayman ‎Abbas.‎

According to Rifaat Qomsan, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab's ‎advisor for political affairs, the number of citizens eligible to vote ‎in the coming parliamentary polls in 2015 stands at 54.8 million. ‎‎"This is out of a total number of population that stands at 87.8 ‎million," said Qomsan.‎

‎"Parliamentary polls, like presidential polls last May, will be ‎heavily guarded by security and army forces and I think they will be ‎a big success," said Qomsan.‎

Electoral coalitions

For their part, political parties said El-Sisi's ratification of the ‎constituencies law has actually shifted parliamentary polls into ‎high gear.‎

Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, chairman of the liberal Reform and ‎Development party, told Ahram Online that the coming ‎parliamentary polls in Egypt will be unique:

"I mean that not a ‎single party will be able to compete alone in these polls," said ‎Sadat, arguing that "after the new constitution and the house of ‎representatives law were passed, political parties came to realise ‎‎ that they must join forces in electoral blocs to be able ‎to gain a good foothold in the coming parliament.”‎

El-Sadat believes that most of the electoral alliances that have ‎so far been formed have already prepared their party-based lists ‎of candidates.

Sadat's Reform and Development party is a member of an ‎electoral coalition led by the liberal Wafd party.‎

Hossam El-Khouli, a spokesperson for the Wafd party, also told Ahram Online that the Wafd-led coalition will field candidates in ‎almost all constituencies. "We have been working for months to prepare the lists of candidates and we hope we will be able to ‎gain a considerable number of seats in parliament," said El-‎Khouli.‎

Another coalition, led by remnants of former president Hosni ‎Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), has ‎also announced that it will field candidates in all districts. ‎Mostafa Bakri, a spokesperson for the Egyptian Front electoral ‎coalition, including a lot of former Mubarak's officials, said the ‎Front will have its own lists of candidates. "But we will also be in ‎coordination with Kamal El-Ganzouri – former Mubarak-era ‎prime minister – in terms of fielding lists of party-based ‎candidates," said Bakri.‎

Three political parties have withdrawn from the ‎Egyptian Front's electoral coalition as of late: the leftist Tagammu party, ‎the liberal Congress party, and the Ghad (Tomorrow) party. Salah ‎Hassaballah, a leading official of the Congress party, said they ‎decided to withdraw from the Front after they found out that ‎former Mubarak's NDP officials swept the lists.‎

Sayed Abdel-Al, chairperson of Tagammu, also said on Tuesday ‎that they decided to withdraw after the Front prioritised its ‎coordination with El-Ganzouri at the expense of his party and ‎the Congress and Ghad parties. ‎

Revolutionary parties that came into being in the wake of the 25 ‎January and 30 June revolutions announced last October that ‎they would stand together as the Democratic Alliance. George ‎Ishak, a leading official of this progressive alliance, announced ‎on Sunday that the Alliance is coordinating with Abdel-Gelil Mostafa, ‎a former coordinator of the revolutionary anti-Mubarak Kefaya ‎Movement, on a unified lists of party-based and ‎independent candidates. Ishak appealed to all revolutionary ‎forces to unite against the onslaught of Mubarak's NDP symbols ‎and other parties that used a political cover for the ‎Mubarak regime.‎

Political analysts agree that political parties have resorted to ‎forming electoral alliances out of recognition that no single party alone can achieve good results in the polls.

‎‎"With the Muslim Brotherhood banned and designated a terrorist ‎organization and Mubarak's NDP dissolved by the court, these ‎political parties have found themselves face to face with the ‎challenge of securing a majority in parliament," said Gamal ‎Zahran, a professor of political science with Suez Canal university ‎and a former independent MP. ‎

According to Zahran, himself a leader of the so-called Social ‎Justice coalition, "the coming polls will involve four ‎main competing forces: the liberal Wafd and other old guard ‎political parties, the Mubarak regime's diehards (either member ‎of the Egyptian Front or independents), revolutionary forces that ‎are antagonistic to both Muslim Brotherhood and the Mubarak ‎regimes, and remnants of Islamist forces, particularly the ‎ultraconservative Salafist Nour party."‎

Zahran is sure that no single coalition will be able to gain ‎a majority in the coming parliament. "But my hope is that the ‎Mubarak diehards and Islamists will be marginalised in favor of a ‎secular majority that can form the first post-constitution elected ‎government," said Zahran.

Conversely, Zahran argued that " if the opposite took ‎place, I mean if Mubarak's NDP diehards – including wealthy ‎businessmen that were close to his son and heir apparent Gamal – were able to dominate parliament again, it would be a ‎catastrophe for the country's political future."

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