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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Egypt rejects opposition's suggested amendments to ‎election laws

Up to 32 political parties last month drafted suggestions for amendments to three election laws required to hold Egypt's postponed legislative polls

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 9 Jun 2015
Egyptian parliament
A general view of the first Egyptian parliament session after the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo January 23, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
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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).‎

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