Egypt’s opposition parties announced that they will not boycott the upcoming parliamentary polls, despite controversial election laws.
Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary polls are expected to begin at the end of the month, said Omar Marawan, the Higher Elections Committee’s (HEC) spokesman, in a statement to Al-Ahram newspaper this week.
The HEC, a seven-member judicial body in charge of supervising the polls, said it will hold a press conference soon to announce a timeline.
"I expect the polls will take two months and Egypt will at last have a new parliament by the end of this year," said Marawan, adding that "once HEC finish preliminary preparations for the polls, such as issuing permits for media outlets and civil society organizations seeking to cover the polls, it will meet to announce a timeline."
For their part, most of Egypt's opposition political parties said they are optimistic this time the polls will finally take place.
Egypt's parliamentary polls were originally scheduled to be held last March, but they were postponed after the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled two election laws unconstitutional.
Although most political parties slammed the amended laws as "flawed" and will not help create a powerful parliament, they said they will neither boycott the polls in any way nor do they intend to go to the SCC to invalidate these laws.
Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the liberal Reform and Developmentarty, told Al-Ahram Online that most of the four amended election laws, as ratified by Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, fell short of what opposition political parties required.
"The law on the division of electoral constituencies was re-amended in a much worse way," said Sadat, "it gave more seats to independents at the expense of party-based MPs while the ‘absolute party list’ system, which allows a party list winning more than 50 percent of the votes to win all the seats per district, was kept in place."
Shawki El-Sayed, a prominent lawyer and a former independent MP, agrees, adding that, “increasing the total number of parliamentary deputies to 596, with 448 as independents, will not help create a powerful parliament or a parliamentary majority."
According to El-Sayed, "Egypt, after four years of revolutionary upheavals, should not expect a powerful parliament in the short run. As long as religious fascists like the Muslim Brotherhood and corrupt symbols of the former regime of Hosni Mubarak will not be part of the election process, hopes will be high that Egypt will develop a strong secular parliamentary life in the long run," said El-Sayed.
Sadat also warns that allowing Egyptians with dual nationality to run in the polls and granting SCC the right to issue rulings on appeals against election laws might not be in the best interest of the coming parliament.
"While the first legislative amendment might allow Egyptian-Israeli citizens to join parliament, the second one could leave parliament to the mercy of the SCC," said Sadat.
Despite the above flawed legislative amendments, most opposition political parties said they would not boycott the polls. Egypt's Socialist Popular Alliance Party, a major anti-government revolutionary force, surprised many on Saturday by announcing that it will participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Nabil Zaki, spokesman for the leftist Tagammu Party, told Al-Ahram on Monday that, "there is a consensus among Egyptian political parties that they should not boycott the upcoming polls or contest the election laws.”
“We signed a document stating that political parties should not go to the SCC to ask for the invalidation of the election laws in order to not delay the polls anymore," said Zaki, adding that "we also agreed that the four ‘flawed’ laws will be a matter of discussion for the coming parliament and we are sure we can amend them to improve Egypt's progress on the road to democracy and strengthening parliamentary powers."
Hossam Al-Khouli, deputy chairman of the liberal Wafd Party, agrees, saying during a televised interview that, "although not part of the above document, Wafd agrees that political parties should refrain from contesting any of the election laws at the moment."
Al-Khouli, however, warns that individuals like lawyers or independent politicians might choose to go to the SCC to file a complaint against the laws.
"Yes, it is expected that the SCC will not issue a ruling on these complaints before parliament convenes, but if one of these complaints was considered valid by the court, it could lead to dissolving parliament," said Al-Khouli, adding that "the fact that some of the laws were drafted in a flawed way does not mean they are unconstitutional. I hope that all the election laws were drafted in a constitutional way, but these remain just hopes," Al-Khouli concluded.