A government-appointed committee charged with drafting three laws necessary to pave the way for Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary elections has rejected suggestions of amendments to these laws put forward by opposition political parties.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice Ibrahim Al-Heneidy told parliamentary reporters that three copies of a semi-final draft of the three election laws were delivered on Monday to president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab, and chairman of the State Council's department of legislation and fatwas.
The three laws determine the workings of the House of Representatives, the Division of Electoral Constituencies, and the Exercise of Political Rights.
"In the copies sent to officials, we explained what proposals suggested by political parties were rejected by the committee and why," said Heneidy, expressing hopes that "the council's final revision of the three laws will finally be completed this week."
"If completed this week, the cabinet could endorse it at its Wednesday meeting, which would allow for a new timeline for parliamentary elections," Heneidy told parliamentary reporters.
Up to 32 political parties drafted "unified amendments" to Egypt's three election laws last month, urging president El-Sisi to prioritise them as an alternative to amendments written by the government committee.
President El-Sisi told leaders of Egypt's mainstream political parties at a meeting on 27 May that he had referred their suggestions of "unified amendments" to the cabinet committee to revise them in constitutional terms.
Salah Fawzi, a member of the drafting committee, told reporters this week that "most of the amendments drafted by 32 political parties under the title "the unified project initiative" were rejected by the committee.
These unified amendments, said Fawzi, tackle two laws only: the House of Representatives and the Exercise of Political Rights.
"As for the third law -- the division of electoral constituencies -- political parties did not introduce any significant changes," said Fawzi.
Fawzi explained that "the committee rejected a proposal aimed at raising the spending ceiling on election campaigns for a party list including 45 candidates from LE7.5 million to LE22 million, on the grounds that 'LE22 million is too much and will open the door wide to vote buying'."
Besides, Fawzi indicated that "another proposal that constituencies limited to competition between party lists increase from four to eight was also rejected."
"The principle of this suggestion in itself is not bad, but there wasn't enough time to implement it, not to mention that it could be ruled unconstitutional," he said.
Fawzi also reported that "a third proposal aimed at scrapping 'the absolute list' system in favour of a proportional one" was also dismissed.
"The proportional list violates articles 243 and 244 of the constitution, which stipulate that each party list must include candidates representing women, Copts, Egyptian expatriates and the disabled," said Fawzi, explaining that "these brackets can only be represented on absolute lists."
Heneidy explained that on Monday he held a meeting with chairman of the Council's department of legislation and fatwas Magdi El-Agati.
"This meeting was important to put the final touches on the controversial law on electoral constituencies," said Heneidy.
The fact that some articles of the constituencies law were ruled unconstitutional was the major reason behind Egypt's parliamentary elections being postponed from last May.
President El-Sisi told the chairmen of political parties last month, "Had the constituencies law not been ruled unconstitutional, Egypt would have convened a parliament by now."
The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) stipulated that the difference in number of voters between one independent constituency and another should not exceed 25 percent as a condition for achieving equality, Heneidy said.
"In my meeting with judge Al-Agati, I explained that the committee's distribution of voters among independent constituencies was based on population statistics released last May," said Heneidy. "These are the most up-to-date statistics about the population and distribution of voters among constituencies in Egypt."
Heneidy said he will be in regular contact with judge Al-Agati and the State Council during the next few days to make sure that the final draft of the constituencies law observes equality among voters in independent constituencies and would not leave space for any future challenges to its constitutionality.
"We hope that the State Council's revision of the three election laws in constitutional and legal terms will be completed this week," said Heneidy. "The next step will be that the cabinet and president El-Sisi ratify the three revised election laws and then refer them to the Higher Election Commission (HEC), which is in charge of setting a new timeline for the polls."
President El-Sisi previously announced that the polls would be held after the holy month of Ramadan scheduled to start on 18 June, and that Egypt will have a new parliament before the end of 2015."
Egypt's election laws state that Egypt's new parliament will be composed of 596 MPs, with 448 independents (78 percent), 120 party officials (17 percent), and 28 appointees (5 percent).