The People’s Assembly, Egypt’s lower house of parliament, is governed in accordance with “law 28 for 1972,” commonly known as “The People’s Assembly law.”
This law was first introduced right after late president Anwar Al-Sadat changed the parliament’s name from the National Assembly to the People’s Assembly and introduced a new constitution in September 1971.
The People’s Assembly law regulates the relationship between parliament and the government, defines the duties and responsibilities of elected deputies, and describes the way in which elections are held. Loyal to a socialist-leaning tradition that was first introduced in the 1952 revolution, the law sets aside half of the assembly’s seats for workers and farmers.
In the 1980s, the law was amended to introduce elections through party lists, also known as the proportional representation system. The earlier system of single-seat candidacy was thus abolished.
In 1990, another amendment scrapped the party lists system and reinstituted the old system of single-seat candidacy.
On 20 September 2011, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) amended the law yet again, lowering the age of candidacy from thirty to twenty-five years. According to this particular version of the law, fifty percent of the seats would have been elected through the single-seat system and fifty percent through the party list, adhering to a proportional representation system.
The raft of amendments also annulled the women’s quota system introduced by the Mubarak regime in 2010. However, the law now stipulates that all party lists must include at least one woman.
To qualify for membership in the assembly, a party list must win at least half a percentage point of nationwide valid votes.
Many political parties criticized the continued reliance on single-seat candidacy, arguing that it gives the powerful supporters of Mubarak’s ousted regime a chance to get reelected through vote-buying and bullying.
On 25 September, the SCAF amended the People’s Assembly law once more, reducing the number of seats elected through single-seat candidacyfrom 50 percent to 33.3 percent.
According to the final version of the law, of the People’s Assembly’s 508 seats, 332 will be elected through party lists, 166 will be elected through single seat candidacy, and 10 will be appointed by the president. The SCAF currently holds presidential powers.
In an earlier draft of the People’s Assembly law, the SCAF barred political parties from contesting single-winner seats (i.e. one-third of the available seats in parliament), confining them to party list seats. Under this article, only independent candidates who are not affiliated with a political party would be able to contest single-winner seats. This stipulation, commonly known as “Article 5,” was rescinded on 8 October due to strong resistance from various political parties. Now political parties can field candidates in party list races and single-winner races.