Three scenarios expected for Egypt's parliamentary elections

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 16 Mar 2015

A committee is expected to meet Tuesday to amend two laws necessary for paving the way for Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary elections

A man casts his vote at a polling station during the second day of parliamentary elections in Alexandria, November 29, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's parliamentary elections, which were put on hold after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled early March that two election laws were unconstitutional, are now faced with three scenarios.

Egypt's parliamentary affairs minister Ibrahim Al-Heneidy told parliamentary reporters on Monday that the government-affiliated committee is currently busy amending the two laws regulating the division of the country's electoral constituencies.

He also said that it is figuring out the workings of the House of Representatives in order to be in line with the constitution and as required by the rulings of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).

"We have been holding meetings since 9 March to discuss SCC's two rulings on these two laws and to see how to put them into effect," said Heneidy.

Salah Fawzi, a member of the eleven-member committee, told Ahram Online that "the amendment of the House law is not a big challenge for the committee. As Article 8 of this law bans citizens with dual nationality from running for parliament, it will be simply amended to abolish this ban."

In its ruling on 7 March, the SCC argued that "an Egyptian with another nationality does not mean that he is a citizen with dual loyalty because loyalty is measured by heart feelings rather than by strict laws."

The House's Article 8 in its current form stipulates that those who wish to run for parliament must hold Egyptian nationality only. The same applies to those wishing to run for president or who hold the post of prime minister.

SCC's ruling stated that while articles 141 and 146 of the new constitution stipulated that the president and prime minister hold Egyptian nationality only, article 102 of the same constitution abstained from imposing this stipulation on those who aim to run for parliament.

Fawzi indicated that "amending Article 8 of the House law in line with this SCC's 7 March ruling will allow Egyptians with dual nationality to register in parliamentary elections as independents when the door opens again and after all constitutional challenges are settled.

It also allows political parties to review their lists of candidates to add Egyptians with dual nationality to these lists," said Fawzi.

Egypt's parliamentary elections were originally scheduled to be held in two rounds between 21-22 March and 6-7 May, but after SCC's rulings, they were put on hold. As many as 7,416 candidates had been able to register between 8 and 19 February.

Fawzi said "the amendment of the law on the division of the electoral districts represents the biggest challenge for the committee. We are currently in the process of collecting up-to-date statistics and information about the number of voters in Egypt's constituencies," said Fawzi, adding that "as far as we understand SCC's ruling on this issue, it recommended that there must be equality among constituencies in Egypt's 27 governorates."

In its ruling on the first of March, SCC said it does not recommend strict equality among constituencies in terms of the number of voters because it would not be possible but the difference in the number of voters between one constituency and another must not exceed 25 per cent.

The SCC recommended that the government-affiliated committee set an average of 168,000 voters in each constituency, given that "the population of Egypt stands at 86.8 million, the number of registered voters is 54.7 million and the number of seats allocated to independents is 420."

Fawzi said "concerning the above ruling, the committee will mainly focus on forcing a change in the total number of constituencies reserved for independents."

In light of the above, explained Fawzi, "we have three scenarios: the first is to widen the size of some constituencies to scale down the difference among them in terms of the number of voters. This will only lead to widening the geographical scope of some constituencies but without increasing the number of seats up for competition among independents, which is 420," said Fawzi.

The second scenario, Fawzi said, "is to change the size of some constituencies in a way that will also lead to an increase in the number of seats reserved to competition among independents. In this case, Egypt's new parliament's total number of seats will be slated to increase from its current 567 (540 elected MPs plus 27 appointed ones)."

Fawzi added that "if things went this way, the number could be increased by 15 or 20 seats to overcome the big difference in the number of voters among some constituencies and ensure that a balance be struck."

But this increase, said Fawzi, will lead to an automatic increase in the number of polling stations and judges in charge of supervising them.

The third scenario, Fawzi concluded, is that "we make a review of the number of voters in all governorates hoping that we could find it just enough to merge constituencies together without increasing the number of independent seats or making significant changes in the size of each constituency."

Fawzi said SCC's ruling noted that the big differences among constituencies in the number of voters are concentrated in 13 governorates only, out of a total 27. "So it is possible that changes lead to equality in these governorates without any increase in number of seats allocated to independents," said Fawzi.

Fawzi stated that the committee began meeting on 9 March and it has 21 days to finish its job or by the end of this month as required by president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

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