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Political factions reject allowing appeals in presidential elections

After ten days of review, several political factions recommended introducing a host of changes to a newly-proposed presidential election law

Gamal Essam El-Din, Monday 10 Feb 2014
Presidential Elections 2012
Egyptians vote in 2012 presidential election (Photo: AP)

After a national dialogue concerning a newly-proposed presidential elections law, the majority of Egypt's political forces and public figures have rejected the possibility that the country's upcoming presidential polls, slated to occur by mid-April, will be open to appeals.

The 59-article law was first announced on 29 January by interim President Adly Mansour and then turned over to public scrutiny in a dialogue running until 9 February, with both politicians and civilians invited to submit proposed changes.

Mansour is set to review the submissions and announce the law's final version on 17 February, a day before the electoral procedure officially begins.

Speaking with Ahram Online, Ali Awad, Mansour's constitutional and legal affairs advisor, said that most of the submissions dealt with article 7 of the law, which allows both candidates and citizens the right to file appeals against the decision of the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC), the government body tasked with announcing official elections results.

In its current form, article 7 represents a radical change from 2012's elections law, which elevated the PEC's decision above judicial scrutiny.

Leftist political groups "heaped praise" on this year's article, said Awad, arguing that the ability to appeal election results is a "constitutional right" reserved for both candidates and citizens.

However, the majority of the proposals called for the article to be re-amended to remove the possibility of appeals, a move that Awad said was grounded in the fear that appeals could delay the voting process and "further shake the country's stability."

Egypt has been beset with political turmoil in the three years following the January 2011 uprising which unseated former president Hosni Mubarak.

The country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was deposed by the military in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule. The current interim government has presented a series of polls – constitutional, presidential and parliamentary – as part of its transitional road map in the post-Morsi era.

While he has not yet announced his candidacy, army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is widely expected to run in the elections and win by an overwhelming majority, having grown increasingly popular since Morsi's ouster.

Informed sources told Ahram Online that "most of those who rejected the current form of article 7, recommending that the PEC's orders be final and immune to appeals, belong to forces loyal to the ousted regime of former president Hosni Mubarak."

This was suggested by a recent study conducted by the Dialogue Centre for Media and Political Studies, which said that removing any chance for appeals is motivated by "political reasons."

"Those who have high hopes that a certain name will be elected a president do not want him to face appeals," the study reported.

But despite their Mubarak-era affiliations, those who have spoken with Ahram Online about re-amending article 7 say that it is a matter of the PEC's judicial legitimacy and not political motivation.

"PEC's members belong to the highest judicial authorities in Egypt," said Mahmoud Nafadi, spokesperson for Misr Baladi, or My Homeland Egypt, a nationalist movement led by former Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin and dominated by loyalists from Mubarak's former ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP).

"So it's highly illogical that [the PEC's] orders come under scrutiny from lower judicial courts," Nafadi said.

This was echoed by Shawki El-Sayed, a high-profile lawyer who is widely considered a Mubarak-regime loyalist.

The PEC's members are senior judges, El-Sayed said, and their decisions must be considered "final judicial rulings" rather than administrative orders subject to scrutiny by the Supreme Administrative Court, as currently proposed by the draft law.

Awad said that the debate over appeals could be settled by allowing candidates and citizens to file them directly before the PEC, and only before the final results were announced, the idea being that the PEC's members are senior judges and capable of absorbing the appeals into their decision.

Another component of the elections law that also received scrutiny from the public was article 1, which deals with a presidential candidate's nationality.

Under the article, a hopeful candidate must be born to Egyptian parents. Also, the candidate, his parents and his spouse must never have held dual nationality.

Awad said that most, if not all, political forces asked that the article be re-amended to stipulate that the candidate's sons and daughters must not hold dual nationality as well.

The Dialogue Centre's study stated that it was "highly dangerous" for the candidate's children to hold dual nationality because "sons and daughters usually impact their fathers more than parents or spouse [do]."

Shawki pointed out that three of former president Morsi's children, two sons and one daughter, held dual Egyptian-American nationality.

Awad said that political forces had also offered three pre-conditions regarding a candidate's eligibility – a comprehensive medical check-up, a detailed statement of his wealth and passing a criminal background check, all of which must be satisfied before a candidate could stand in elections.

Another development for the upcoming polls is the finalisation of the PEC's general secretariat.

Anwar El-Assi, PEC's chairman and current acting president of the High Constitutional Court (HCC), issued a decree on 5 February stating that PEC's secretariat-general will be led by HCC judge Hamdan Fahmi and formed of 13 senior judges hailing from appeals and administrative courts, as well as prosecution authorities.

In a public statement released this week, Fahmi indicated that the secretariat-general would be in charge of implementing the PEC's orders and acting as a link between the commission and candidates, citizens, the media and civil organisations.

Fahmi also said that the PEC was not scheduled to hold any meetings before 18 February. According to protocol, the new election law will be first issued by Mansour and then the PEC will meet to decide on the next steps regarding the elections, including drawing up a timetable for the ballot.

Voter lists will continue to be updated until 17 February or until the door for official registration opens, said Fahmi.

Members of the police and army are not eligible to vote. This means that El-Sisi must resign from his post as defence minister before 17 February and go register to vote.

If he decides to run for president, that is.

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