Egypt political groups, officials 'close to an agreement' on elections laws: PM

Ahram Online , Thursday 2 Apr 2015

Eleven political parties attended the first national dialogue, paving the way for Egypt's parliamentary elections

Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab
Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab attends the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South Sinai governorate, south of Cairo, March 28, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's Prime Minister said Thursday that the government and political forces are getting close to seeing eye to eye on proposed amendments to laws regulating parliamentary elections after the poll was shelved last month due to legal obstacles.

PM Ibrahim Mahlab made his remarks following the first in a series of national dialogue meetings with political forces in an effort to find common ground over electoral laws that were criticised by several political parties before one of the legislations was successfully challenged by a court ruling last month.

Egypt's constitutional court ruled early in March that an article in the law outlining electoral districts violates the country's national charter, forcing a delay to the long-awaited vote that was scheduled to start on 22 March.

Eleven political groups attended the Thursday meeting including the Wafd party, Conference party, Free Egyptians party and Egyptian Social Democratic party, with the absence of the sole Islamist player in the country's politics –Nour Party.

"There is a consensus amongst the political forces on the importance of the oversight of the Constitutional Court on laws governing the electoral process," Mahlab said.

The meeting with Mahlab comes after a government-appointed committee has almost finalised draft amendments to the two election laws to bring them in line with the court ruling.

Amongst suggestions that were welcomed in Thursday's meeting was doubling the number of electoral constituencies of party lists from four to eight, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

There had been concerns over having voting districts for party lists spanning several governorates, with critics saying the system will make campaigning particularly difficult and later preclude MPs from working closely with local residents.

Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012, following a court decision to dissolve an elected chamber, ruling that laws regulating its election were unconstitutional.

In the absence of parliament, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi holds legislative powers until an elected parliament convenes.

Once the chamber is elected, they will have to vote on all laws issued by El-Sisi and his predecessor, interim president Adly Mansour.

The House of Representatives comprises of 567 seats: 420 elected as individuals and 120 through party lists with quotas for women, Christians and youth. The rest of the seats are appointed by the president.

Egypt's Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim Heneidy earlier said that some of the political forces have asked for a reconsideration of the whole electoral process; while others demanded increasing the chamber's seats to 600 in total instead of 567.

The second dialogue meeting is due to take place next Tuesday.


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