On Tuesday, Egyptians were presented with a new Parliamentary Elections Law. The debate over the nature of the law has been very heated, as some consider the upcoming parliamentary poll the most important of its kind in Egypt’s history. They also discovered that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had issued a short constitutional declaration on 25 September 2011 without their knowledge. Needless to say, both pieces of news were not welcomed.
Reactions varied but most believed that it would ex-NDP party members a back door ticket into Parliament. The notion that these old regime figures are gathering their forces to return once again using their money and power has enraged many up and coming political powers. The long and drawn out elections roadmap, set to begin in November 2011 and end in March 2012, has also sparked fierce criticism.
Potential presidential candidate Ayman Nour believes that the furtive manner in which the law and constitutional declaration were issued, harks back to the days of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and the arbitrary way in which laws were passed.
In statements to CBC TV channel, Nour expressed his concern about the whole scenario. Despite his fears and his rejection of the law’s particulars, he believes parties should participate and not boycott the elections, thereby abandoning Parliament to NDP remnants.
Mohamed Selim El-Awa, a potential Islamist presidential candidate, also believed that the elections timetable was too protracted. In an official statement, issued Tuesday, the well-known Islamist lawyer and thinker believes that February 2011 to February 2012 suffices as a transitional period, as six months have already been wasted on political debates that have angered many people in the process.
Rifaat El-Said, the chairman of the leftist Tagammu Party, rejected and criticised the law and believed that it served the interests of ex-NDP remnants as well as the Muslim Brotherhood.
Surprisingly, the Brotherhood does not deem the elections law to be in its best interest, insisting on the closed proportional list voting system like many parties in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), renewed their refusal of the elections law despite welcoming the military council’s proposed timeline.
In a statement posted on the party's official website Tuesday, Saad El-Katatni, secretary-general of the FJP, expressed his party’s rejection of the law. El-Katatni also articulated that the SCAF should issue and activate the treason law in order to prevent ex-NDP officials from standing in Parliament again.
Al- Adl, the Justice Party, has also announced its opposition to the law. Yet, according to one of the party’s founders, Ahmed Shoukry, the party will meet with other parties Wednesday in order to reach an agreement on whether they would boycott the coming elections or not.
Essam Sultan, the deputy-chairman of the Wasat Party, also criticised the long period between the People's Assembly elections and the Shura Council's elections, hinting that the SCAF intended to cling to power until 2013. Furthermore, Sultan questioned why the treason law has not yet been activated, especially considering that there are no less than five parties composed of former NDP members willing to participate in the forthcoming elections.
Activist Asmaa Mahfouz criticised the new law on her Twitter account: "Imagine the elections kicking off just two months from today – on 28 November; how will candidates have adequate time to campaign: to hit the streets and speak with people across several areas." Mahfouz chided the ruling military council, stating that the current law imposed impossible conditions on Egypt’s nascent political parties.
There were those, nevertheless, who supported these recent develops. Atef El-Banna, a professor of constitutional law at Cairo University, praised both the elections law and the constitutional declaration. The jurist, who worked on drafting the original constitutional amendments, called for parties and activists to stop their debate on the new law, insisting that there fear of NDP remnants was guided, as the Egyptian people were too smart elect old regime figures.
Political powers, parties and activists will continue to discuss their response to the most recent roadmap and debates will likely heat up ahead of what will certainly be an historic moment in Egyptian history.