Political coalitions threaten to boycott parliamentary polls

Ekram Ibrahim , Thursday 29 Sep 2011

Democratic Coalition, Egyptian Bloc both vow to boycott November's parliamentary polls if a controversial new electoral law remains in place

Muslim Brotherhood
File Photo: Member of the guidance council of Egyptian biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, Essam el-Erian, left and its spokesman Mohammed Morsi Egypt Monday, Nov. 22, 2010. (Photo: AP)

Egypt’s Democratic Coalition and Egyptian Bloc have both threatened to boycott the country’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections following unpopular amendments to Egypt’s elections law by the ruling military council.

On Wednesday night, the Democratic Coalition - which includes the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party and Wafd Party, along with 60 other political parties and movements - threatened to boycott legislative polls slated for November if a controversial article in the new electoral law was not scrapped.

The coalition objects to Article 5 of the law, which bans political parties from fielding candidates for a full one third of the seats in the national assembly.  

"We refuse to take part in upcoming elections if Article 5 isn’t abrogated," coalition members declared in a statement.

According to the offensive article, two thirds of parliament is to be elected via a party-list system of proportional representation, while the rest are to be elected by a simple majority. This means that only independent candidates - and not those associated with political parties - will be eligible to run for one third of the seats in the assembly.

Critics of the individual candidacy system say that the system is tailor-made to allow figures associated with the former regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak back into parliament.

The Freedom and Justice Party, for its part, has criticised the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for ignoring the popular will when drafting the law. Political parties met with SCAF members earlier this month where they voiced demands for a system based exclusively on proportional lists.

“We’re also opposed to decisions made without consulting all political factions,” said Freedom and Justice Party Secretary-General Saad El-Katatni. “We also insist that the political isolation law promised by SCAF, aimed at banning former regime members from politics for a specific time period, be endorsed.”

Meanwhile, members of the liberal Wafd Party’s higher committee are expected to meet today with party head El-Sayed El-Badawi to discuss a proposed electoral boycott aimed at protesting the recent changes to the electoral law.

“The application of this law will deprive political parties of the chance to compete for a full one third of the seats in parliament,” Wafd Party Secretary-General Foaud Badrawi told Ahram Online. “Under these circumstances, how can any political party win a parliamentary majority?”

The Democratic Coalition is also demanding the activation of a decades-old treason law - aimed at preventing former regime elements from re-entering parliament - and the annulment of Egypt’s longstanding emergency law before elections are held.

Along with the Democratic Coalition, the Egyptian Bloc - an alliance of secular political parties advocating for a civil state - also stressed its rejection of the new electoral law on Monday, citing many of the same reasons.

"These amendments fail to meet the minimum demands of the country’s political forces, which were articulated in numerous meetings with the military junta,” the bloc declared in a press statement.

The Egyptian Bloc consists largely of liberal and socialist parties, including the Free Egyptians Party, the Democratic Front Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Egyptian Socialist Party, the Egyptian Communist Party, the National Association for Change, and the Farmers' Syndicate.

In its statement, the bloc stressed its desire to ensure that upcoming elections fulfil their constitutional, legislative and regulatory purposes so as to avoid chaos and thuggery, particularly in light of the current lack of security.

Notably, the recent amendments also reduce the number parliamentary seats from 508 to 498 and stipulate that MPs be elected through a general vote, with half of the members being either farmers or workers. The amendments also require that each list include at least one female candidate.

The new law also reduces the number of seats in the Shura Council - the upper, consultative house of parliament - from 390 to 327.

The SCAF announced on Tuesday that the first stage of parliamentary polling would be conducted on 28 November.

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