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Egypt parliament approves amendments to House law amid differences over election system

The debate saw a lot of differences on the election system to be adopted in holding the coming parliamentary elections. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 14 Jun 2020
Parliament
File Photo: The Egyptian Parliament (Photo:Reuters)
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Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives – approved on Sunday amendments to the law regulating the formation and election of the House of Representatives (law 46/2014).

Parliament also approved two draft bills on the exercise of political rights (law 45/2014) and the performance of the National Election Committee (law 198/2017).

The amendments were drafted and submitted by the parliamentary majority ‘Support Egypt’ coalition last week

The amendments to the House law state that the number of the House's elected MPs shall stand at 568, instead of 540, in line with Article 102 of Egypt's 2019 amended constitution.

"Fifty percent of this number (284 MPs) will be elected via the individual system, and 50 percent (284 MPs) will be elected through the closed list system," said Article 3, adding that "25 percent of the total number of the House's seats shall be reserved for women, and the president shall be authorised to appoint no more than 5 percent of the total."

Article 4 states that the individual candidacy system shall be implemented in a number of districts, while the closed list system will be in application in four districts, two of which will elect 84 MPs (42 each) and two will elect 200 MPs (100 each).

"A law regulating the drawing of electoral districts will be passed to show in detail the size, seats and components of each district," said Article 4.

The debate saw a lot of differences among representatives of political parties over the election system to be adopted in holding the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Akmal Qortam, a businessman and leader of the Conservatives Party, said his party decided to abstain from voting on the law. 

“We have many reasons for this abstention, the first of which is that the amendments to the House law and other political laws should first have been the subject of a national dialogue,” said Qortam, adding that the adoption of the closed list system does not serve the principle of political pluralism as stipulated by the constitution.” 

“It is better to implement the proportional list system to allow all political parties to have seats in parliament and this serves political pluralism,” said Qortam.

In response, Ashraf Rashad, head of the Future of Homeland party, insisted that the amendments were the result of a national dialogue among all political parties. 

“The participants in this dialogue reached agreement that the closed list system is the best for Egypt in this period,” said Rashad, also arguing that “this system opens the door for small political parties to form coalitions to run as one list.”

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said the proportional list system usually causes political instability, “and what is best for Egypt at these critical times is to adopt the closed list system.”

“Egypt is facing a lot of national security challenges at present and it is good to have a parliament that represents the voice of all the people,” said Abdel-Aal.

Head of the leftist Tagammu party El-Sayed Abdel-Aal said the national dialogue on election laws saw several political parties asking for the adoption of the proportional list system. 

“This system leads to a true representation for all political forces in the coming parliament,” said Abdel-Aal.

Talaat Khalil, a leftist MP, said “the national dialogue, brokered by the Future of Homeland, was symbolic.”

“I participated in this dialogue and I saw that it was symbolic and formal and so I decided to withdraw,” said Khalil, arguing that “the real goal of the amendments is to create a new ruling party and this is something we should all reject.”

In response, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said “MPs are not legislating for a ruling party, not to mention that the president of the republic refused to be at the helm of a ruling party.”

The amendments to the two laws on the exercise of political rights and the National Election Committee (NEC) state that the NEC shall decide on appeals filed on the results of the election within 24 hours and in doing so it shall observe the requirements of integrity, neutrality and fairness of the ballot process.

Parliament also approved on Sunday a draft bill on the formation and election of the Senate. The bill will set up a 300-member Senate, one-third of which (100 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 public.

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