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Monday, 24 February 2020

Egypt opposition parties call for proportional list system in electing new parliament

Opposition representatives said the system does not contravene the constitution, and helps all political parties and marginalised forces gain seats in parliament

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 30 Dec 2019
File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)
File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)
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A majority of Egypt’s political opposition parties that took part in the second round of a national dialogue on Sunday evening teamed up to call for the adoption of a proportional list system, rather than a closed list system, in electing the two chambers of parliament – the House of Representatives and the Senate – at the end of 2020.

Abdel-Nasser Qandil, assistant secretary-general of the leftist Tagammu Party, said there is a consensus among political opposition parties that the election of the two houses of parliament and the local councils should be held in 2020.

"Besides, we agree that an unconditional proportional list system should be adopted in these elections," said Qandil, arguing that "this system allows each party list to gain seats in proportion to the votes it wins in a certain district."

This differs from the closed list system, which had been in effect in Egypt during the 1980s.

"The closed list requires that a party list should gain at least 8 percent of the overall votes in order to be eligible to join parliament, and if a certain list gets less than the 8 percent threshold, the votes it wins would be lost to the party that received the majority of votes," said Qandil.

Abdel-Moneim Imam, head of the Justice Party, said his party also favours an open list system, which allows each list of party-based candidates to get seats in proportion to the votes it wins in each district.

Talaat Khalil, an MP and a member of the presidential board of the liberal Conservatives Party, says that a proportional list system goes in line with Article 102 of the constitution, which states that elections shall be held via the individual system, the list system or a combination of both. 

"We should also note that this system is in effect in most countries, and our party has prepared a complete study on how this system should be implemented," said Khalil, warning that "it would be a big political setback if the closed list system, which had been in application in Egypt throughout the 1980s, is put back in force again." 

"This system, which obligates each list to gain a certain percent of votes in all of Egypt in order to be eligible to join parliament, proved to be a big failure and led to the demise of many political parties," said Khalil.

Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, leader of the majority Support Egypt parliamentary coalition and deputy chairman of the Future of a Homeland Party, which took the initiative of inviting political parties for a national dialogue on election laws, said that no electoral system is perfect. 

"Each electoral system has advantages and disadvantages," said Al-Qasabi, adding that "some see the closed list system as the most favourable for Egypt, as it allows only strong parties to join parliament, and leads voters to focus on election platforms rather than on individuals."

"By contrast, a proportional list might lead to weakening political life because it allows most parties, including minor and ineffective ones, to join parliament," said Al-Qasabi.

Most of the pro-regime political parties said they prefer a combination of the individual and list system be adopted in the coming election. Al-Qasabi said this system goes in line with the constitution and allows both independent and party-based candidates to win seats.

Ahmed Maqlad, deputy head of legal affairs for the Congress Party, said a mix of the individual and closed list system will ensure that marginal sectors like women, Copts and youth are fairly represented.

Representatives of political parties also called for amending the two laws regulating the performance of political parties (law 40/1977) and the exercise of political rights (law 73/1956).

Anwar El-Sadat, leader of the liberal Reform and Development Party, said it is important that the elections are held in a democratic and competitive atmosphere.

"This is much more important than what kind of electoral system we should adopt," said Sadat, adding that "it was agreed after the first round of the national dialogue in early December that a legal and technical committee be formed to discuss electoral systems and choose the one most favourable for Egypt's conditions." 

"Besides, I think that participants in this dialogue should hold a meeting with the prime minister and ministers of information and interior to reach agreement on the conditions necessary for paving the road to a democratic and competitive election," said Sadat.

Mohamed Farid Zahran, head of the Egyptian social democratic party, stressed that political opposition parties should have an equal access to the national media.

In response, Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future of a Homeland Party, said a third round of the national dialogue is expected to discuss the local council elections.

President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi told journalists during a visit to El-Fayoum governorate last week that it would be difficult to hold the elections of the House, the Senate and local councils in one year.

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