After a long delay, Egypt's cabinet has, in principle, approved a semi-final draft of a new law aimed at redrawing the country's electoral constituencies, in line with the new constitution.
Minister of Transitional Justice and House of Representatives Affairs Ibrahim El-Heneidy, in public statement to parliamentary reporters on Thursday, said the cabinet has provisionally endorsed a preliminary draft of the law.
Heneidy explained that a semi-final draft of the law was presented to the cabinet on Wednesday.
Heneidy indicated that the draft law, in line with the new constitution and a new House of Representatives law, creates four constituencies designed for competition among party-based candidates.
"This was easy for the committee to achieve," said El-Heneidy, pointing out that "the four party-list constituencies will have 120 deputies, with two constituencies having 90 deputies or 45 each, and another two constituencies having 30 deputies or 15 each."
El-Heneidy declined to name the four party-list constituencies, but reports and informed sources said two of them (including 60 seats, or one with 45 seats plus another with 15) will be in Cairo.
As for the difficult task of redrawing constituencies for independent candidates, El-Heneidy said the committee was divided into two camps.
"The first camp, supported by some members of the committee and a few political parties, said the redrawing of constituencies governed by the individual candidacy system and aiming to produce 420 independents should remain regulated by an old administrative system that placed the number of individual constituencies at 246.
"What is good about this system is that all the necessary data about it is already available (including density of population and geographical size) and it could be easily and quickly updated," said El-Heneidy.
"The constituencies will be redrawn so that some of them will be represented by one independent each, others represented by two independents each, and others represented by three independents each," said El-Heneidy.
"This difference in number of independents among constituencies will be governed by population density."
Some densely populated constituencies in the Nile Delta, for example, will be represented by three independents each – while some small districts could be represented by just one.
As for the other option, El-Heneidy said it is aimed at creating just 420 constituencies to be devoted to competition among independent candidates.
"Under this option, each constituency will be slated to elect just one independent candidate, thus creating as many as 420 independent deputies as stipulated by the law," said El-Heneidy.
According to the House of Representatives law, Egypt's new parliament must include 567 deputies, with 120 elected as party-based candidates and 420 as independents, while 27 will be presidential appointees.
El-Heneidy said the above two options will be a matter of discussion and national dialogue with political parties until next Wednesday.
"When the cabinet holds its weekly meeting next Wednesday, the two options will be available to choose from," said El-Heneidy.
El-Heneidy said the final draft will also have to be referred to the State Council's Legislative and Fatwas department to revise it in constitutional and legal terms and before it is finally endorsed by the cabinet.
According to El-Heneidy, the technical committee entrusted with drafting the law is currently finalising some important aspects such as counting the number of voters registered in each constituency to ensure equality and fair representation for all constituencies, as required by the constitution.
El-Heneidy also disclosed that some new border constituencies will be created, with one representing the Red Sea Halayeb and Shalatin, and two others representing Nubia and Kom Ombo in Upper Egypt.
Halayeb and Shalatin has long been a matter of dispute between Egypt and Sudan, with each country insisting that it is an integral part of its territory. Egypt formally annexed the Halayeb and Shalatin in 1994 despite objections from Sudan.