Egypt’s parliamentary legislative and constitutional affairs committee approved in principle on Sunday a draft bill on the formation and election of the Senate.
The preliminary approval comes after the parliamentary majority ‘Support Egypt’ coalition officially submitted two draft bills on the formation and election of the Senate and the House of Representatives (law 46/2014), and two other draft laws on the Exercise of Political Rights (law 45/2014) and the Performance of the National Election Committee (Law 198/2017).
Earlier on Sunday, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal announced in a first session after a three-week recess that he decided to refer two draft bills on the formation and election of the Senate and the House of Representatives to the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee to discuss them and prepare a report to be discussed and voted on by MPs in a plenary session.
Two other draft laws amending the Exercise of Political Rights and the performance of the National Election Committee were also referred to the committee.
Abdel-Aal said "the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee will discuss the four draft bills very carefully and its members will make sure that the newly drafted bills on the Senate and the House serve the people and nation's interests and that active political forces be allowed to join the new parliament."
“From my first reading of the amendments, I can say that they contain very good texts that will allow all political forces compete in parliamentary elections via the list system and have an active role in the nation's political system, and that there will be a fair representation for all political forces,” he said.
However, Abdel-Aal said the amendments will not allow "rogue elements rejected by the people" to infiltrate the coming parliament.
"I want to say that the party lists should be prepared in a way that should not allow any undesirable persons to infiltrate parliament, and so I urge that political parties draft their lists of candidates in a very careful way," Abdel-Aal said.
Abdel-Aal said earlier that the parliament will have a busy legislative agenda in the coming period.
"We are about to discuss amendments of laws on the formation and election of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Exercise of Political Rights and the performance of the National Election Commission," he said.
Ihab El-Tamawy, deputy chairman of the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said the committee has already begun discussing the above four draft bills.
"We are keen to discuss these bills in two meetings today and tomorrow because of their urgent importance and because they aim to achieve constitutional requirements," he said.
Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, the spokesman of the "Support Egypt" coalition, told reporters on Sunday that the four draft bills have gained a kind of semi-consensus from politicians and party leaders in a national dialogue.
El-Qasabi indicated that in light of the amendments, the coming lower parliament - the House of Representatives – will be composed of 596 MPs.
"Fifty percent of these will be elected via the closed list system and the other 50 percent through the individual system, not mention that the lists shall be prepared to go in line with Article 102 of the constitution stipulating that women (25 percent), young people, Christians, Egyptian expatriates and physically challenged candidates should be represented on the lists,” he said.
Al-Qasabi also indicated that the amendments will set up a 300-member Senate.
"One-third [of the 300 members] will be elected via the closed list system, one-third through the individual system, and the last third will be named by the president of the republic," he said, expressing hopes that the coming Senate will be "Egypt's house of political expertise."
Egypt's 2014 constitution, which was amended in April 2019, states in Article 250 that a Senate – an upper house parliament – is to be created and that its members should not be less than 180, and that two-thirds of its members be elected in a secret ballot.
Article 102 of the Constitution also states that MPs of the lower house parliament – the House of Representatives – shall not be less than 450, a quarter of seats are to be reserved for women representatives, and the president is authorised to appoint no more than 5 percent of the total.
Egypt's parliamentary elections are scheduled for November this year.
The 2019's constitutional amendments passed in April 2019 will bring back the upper house parliament (the Senate) previously known as Shura Council, which was abolished in 2014.
Al-Qasabi said the parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held next November.
"But in light of the coronavirus crisis, the final decision on the coming parliamentary elections will be left to the discretion of the National Election Committee and the government," Al-Qasabi said.
Secretary-general Mahmoud Fawzi told reporters on Sunday that although parliament has a busy legislative agenda in the coming few weeks, MPs are keen that they finish this agenda before the summer recess begins next July.
"Should we need more time, the president in consultation with parliament can extend the session's term for additional weeks or months," Fawzi said, expecting the new political laws to receive priority and intensive discussion in parliament in the coming period.