Ahram Online presents: The Idiot's Guide to Egypt’s presidential elections 2012

Gamal Essam El-Din, Monday 23 Apr 2012

Slated to cost around LE1 billion, Egypt's presidential race on 23/24 May has drawn dozens of hopefuls; its result anybody's guess - here's a key to keeping up

polling station
An electoral worker stands next to a ballot box in a polling station (Photo: Reuters)

Rules for the 2012 presidential election

The rules of Egypt’s first post-January 25 Revolution presidential election were released on 30 March 2011. They form part of the Constitutional Declaration and function alongside the 2005 Presidential Election Law (law No. 174 of 2005).

The rules:

1. Candidates have to have been born in Egypt, may not hold dual nationality and may not be married to a foreigner. They must not be less than 40 years in age.

2. In order to be nominated, candidates must secure the support of 30 elected MPs or the recommendations of 30,000 voters from at least 15 Egyptian governorates (or provinces) with no less than 1000 recommendations per governorate, or nomination by a party holding at least one seat in the legislature. The 30,000 recommendations must be officially documented by special public notary offices affiliated to the Ministry of Justice.

3. Candidates must submit a detailed statement about their wealth, must have performed military service or have been exempted from it.


How to register?

In a public press conference on 19 February, Farouk Sultan, chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the judge presiding over the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC), indicated that 10 different kinds of registration paperwork would be required from each prospective candidates.

1. Form 1 A is designed to be filled out by all candidates. They are asked to provide certain personal information about themselves.

2. Form 2 A is designed for candidates who aim to get the recommendations of 30 parliamentary deputies.

Form 2 B designed for independents who aim to collect 30,000 recommendations. An independent candidate must submit a CV containing a full list and information about the names of citizens who recommended him or her.

Form 2 C is designed for party-based candidates. It must include the party’s official recommendation after it was certified by the Political Parties Committee, and a certificate from the People’s Assembly or Shura Council, showing the number of elected members of the recommending party in each house according to the results of the last parliamentary elections.

3. A candidate must submit an original copy of his or her certificate of birth to show that he or she is not less than 40 years in age.

4. A candidate must submit a copy of his or her identity card.

5. A candidate must submit a statement about his or her criminal record (provided by the Ministry of Interior).

6. A candidate must submit a certificate showing that he or she was born to two Egyptian parents and he does not have dual nationality.

7. A candidate must submit a certificate that he or she is not married to a foreigner.

8. A candidate must submit a certificate that he completed military service or was exempted from performing it.

9. A candidate must provide a detailed statement about his or her financial wealth (according to Law 62 of 1975 establishing the Illicit Gains Office affiliated to the Ministry of Justice).

10. A statement showing that he or she has a place of residence in Cairo.

SPEC announced that special public notary offices will be created and electronically linked to its main office to make sure that citizens do not recommend more than one candidate at the same time.


Registration date

According to SPEC, the formal registration process for presidential candidates will start 10 March and end 8 April. This one-month period was adopted to give independent candidates adequate time to collect the required number of 30,000 recommendations from 15 governorates.

Beginning Saturday, 10 March, candidates can begin registering their names from 9am in the morning until 8pm in the afternoon. The process of registration will continue until 2pm on 8 April.

On Monday, 9 April, an initial list of candidates and the names of citizens or MPs or political parties that recommended them will be released.


Election date

The presidential election will be held in Egypt on 23 and 24 May 2012. If no candidate garners more than half the vote in the first round, the top two candidates will face one another in a runoff on 16-17 June.

A new president will be named by 21 June, a timeframe that allows the country’s military rulers to meet their pledge of transferring power to a civilian government by the end of June 2012.


The electorate

Estimated population of Egypt: 85 million.

Size of the electorate: Close to 52 million Egyptians are eligible to cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.


Period of campaigning

According to SPEC Chairman Farouk Sultan on 7 March, campaigning for the presidential elections will officially begin 30 April or after a final list of candidates is announced 26 April. Campaigning will continue until the end of 20 May, or 48 hours before elections day on 23 May. Anyone breaching these dates will be prosecuted.


Funding of presidential election campaigns

On 7 March, SPEC Chairman Farouk Sultan said: “Presidential candidates will be obliged to open a bank account with the objective of funding their election campaigns. The account will be opened in Egyptian pounds only with just three state-owned banks: the National Bank of Egypt, Misr (Egypt) Bank, and Banque du Caire."

SPEC set a ceiling on funding in the first round of the presidential election at LE10 million per candidate. In a run-off round, candidates may not spend more than LE2 million on campaigning.

Hatem Bagato, SPEC secretary-general, indicated that the funding will be overseen by the Central Auditing Agency. He indicated that each candidate will be obliged to give SPEC firsthand information about how many cash donations they received and how they are spent. He or she will also have to provide SPEC with a statement about how much funding he or she obtained within 15 days after the announcement of the results of the election.

Bagato also stated that candidates are strictly forbidden from obtaining foreign funding for campaign spending. It is also illegal for presidential candidates to campaign in sites of religious worship. Their campaigns must not violate the private lives of other candidates or stir up issues that might spark sectarian strife.


The law regulating the presidential election (Law No.147/2005)


When former president Hosni Mubarak amended the constitution in 2005 to introduce Egypt’s first direct multi-candidate presidential election, a law was passed to regulate the poll. The law was amended again in 2007 when new constitutional amendments were introduced on presidential elections and other matters.

When Mubarak was ousted from office on February 2011 and a constitutional declaration was announced on 30 March 2011, the 2005 presidential election law was amended again. The regulating law was issued by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on 21 January 2012 after it was revised by the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Monitoring the ballot

The law states that a five-member purely judicial Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) is tasked with overseeing and monitoring the polls from the beginning to the end.

SPEC is headed by the chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court and includes:

The chairman of Cairo’s Appeals Court;

The senior deputy chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court;

The senior deputy chairman of the Court of Cassation.

The senior deputy chairman of the State Council (including Administrative Courts).


SPEC’s privileges

The law gives SPEC supreme, full and exclusive rights in monitoring all the stages of the election, ranging from the registration process until the counting of votes and announcing the final results.

The presidential election law entrusted SPEC with different roles and powers, on top of which are exercising full control of elections, regulating their performance and ensuring that they are entirely supervised and monitored by judges.

The costs of this supervision are expected to stand at LE1 billion.

SPEC is also entrusted with selecting polling and vote-counting stations, preparing voter lists, regulating and supervising election campaigns in a way that should uphold the ban on raising religious and racial slogans and symbols.

Offenders against SPEC regulations on election matters may be subject to prison sentences of up to 10 years, and a fine of up to LE10,000.

The orders of SPEC are immune to appeals. SPEC’s Sultan indicated that “This immunity is necessary because members of SPEC represent the highest judicial authorities in Egypt and also because opening the door to filing appeals leaves the legitimacy of the newly-elected president on shaky grounds.”

SPEC also takes charge of regulating the voting of Egyptians living abroad. The vote will be supervised by diplomatic and consular corps in Egyptian embassies. The vote will likely begin two or three days earlier than the official in-country date.


International monitoring of the election

SPEC’s chairman, Farouk Sultan, has indicated that international monitors and media are welcome to take part in following up on — rather than officially supervising — the upcoming presidential election.

On 28 February, the People’s Assembly — Egypt’s lower house of parliament — approved amendments to articles 30 and 34 of the presidential election law in order to enhance the transparency and integrity of the voting process. The amendments state that the vote-counting process can be implemented in auxiliary polling stations rather than in main polling stations only. They also state that the vote-counting process must be conducted in the presence of representatives of the presidential candidates, the media, and civil society organisations.

The Assembly’s amendments have to be reviewed by the Supreme Constitutional Court to ensure that they are in line with constitutional principles.

Historical background

1805-1952: Until the military revolution of 23 July 1952, Egypt had been under the hereditary rule of the family of Mohamed Ali who took power in 1805. King Farouk, the last of the Mohamed Ali dynasty, was ousted from power and Egypt declared a republic on 18 June 1953.

1953-1956: Army General Mohamed Naguib was selected by the military to be the first president of the republic. Naguib, however, was forced to resign in March 1954 by Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the real architect of the 1952 military revolution. Nasser was appointed chairman of the Revolution’s Leadership Council in 1954 for a transitional period of two years.

In September 1956, a new constitution which allowed Egyptians via a public referendum to approve or reject a presidential candidate was promulgated. Nasser was elected president in 1956, gaining 99.9 per cent of the vote. He was the only candidate.

1970-2005: Nasser died on 28 September 1970 and was replaced by Anwar El-Sadat who introduced a new constitution in September 1971, keeping the yes/no referendum system in place but stipulating that a candidate had first to be approved by two-thirds of the parliamentary deputies. Sadat won a new term of office in the presidential referendum of September 1976.

On 6 October 1981, Sadat was assassinated during a military parade and was succeeded by his deputy Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak was elected president of Egypt in a yes/no referendum, gaining 98 per cent of the vote. Mubarak was subsequently re-elected four times by yes/no referendum in the first 24 years of his rule.

Under US pressure led by former US President George W Bush in 2005, Mubarak was forced to amend Article 76 of the 1971 Constitution, replacing the yes/no referendum system with the first direct multi-candidate presidential election. Mubarak, supported by his authoritarian ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), swept the presidential poll, winning 88 per cent of the vote in September 2005.

2011 - On 11 February 2011, Mubarak was ousted from power after an 18-day uprising led by a new generation of pro-democracy youth. The military took over and put an interim "constitutional declaration" to a public referendum on 19 March 2011. It was approved by 77 per cent of Egyptians in a free and fair ballot.

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