Technical committee recommends radical changes to Egypt's parliamentary elections law

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 17 May 2014

Egypt's two key parliamentary elections laws appear set to be changed resoundingly, with an increase in the number of deputies to 630

A woman casts her vote during the first day of the parliamentary run-off elections in Cairo December 5, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

According to Article 230 of Egypt's new constitution, passed 18 January, procedures for holding the country's presidential and parliamentary polls must begin within six months — or by 17 July at the latest.

While Egypt's presidential polls will be held 26-27 May, procedures for holding parliamentary elections have also begun in earnest. The two elections form an integral part of the post-30 June roadmap adopted since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was removed from office 3 July 2013.

According to Mahmoud Fawzy, spokesman of a technical committee in charge of revising two parliamentary election laws — the 1956 law on the exercise of political rights and the 1972 law regulating the performance of parliament (the House of Representatives) — the committee has recommended that the two laws be fundamentally changed.

Fawzi said the technical committee will submit its final drafts of the two laws to an 8-member committee that has been formed by Interim President Adly Mansour on 14 April and led by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Amin Al-Mahdi. "This does not mean that these drafts will be the final say on the two laws, but the fact is that they will be passed to a national dialogue among different political forces until they gain a national consensus," said Fawzi, adding that, "The two laws must be ready in their final form before 17 July in order to allow parliamentary elections procedures to begin within the six-month period stipulated by the constitution."

Informed sources revealed the main features of the two draft laws to Ahram Online. Foremost among these is that the coming parliamentary elections law will apply a mix of individual candidacy and party lists. The committee proposed that the number of deputies be increased to 630 to ensure that all of Egypt's electoral districts are fairly represented in the new parliament.

Sources said the committee favoured that most of the seats of the new parliament be elected via the individual candidacy system. "This is a positive response to national dialogue sessions that were held by Interim President Adly Mansour," said a committee source, adding that "most of the political factions in these sessions agreed that the individual candidacy system is the best for Egypt at this stage."

As a result, sources disclosed, out of a proposed total of seats, 488 will be elected via the individual candidacy system while 112 seats will be elected via party lists. In addition, 30 seats will be named by the president of the republic. "This means that as many as 80 per cent of seats will be reserved to independents, and only 20 per cent to party-based candidates," said informed sources.

The increase in individual candidacy seats represents the greatest in 40 years. Under the 30-year old regime of authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in 2011's uprising, the number of parliamentary deputies stood at 454: 444 seats by election and 10 by appointment.

The number increased to 508 (498 seats by election and 10 by appointment) after the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) took power in February 2011.

Informed sources also disclosed that the law on the exercise of political rights, whose number of articles will be increased from 57 to 75,  will not impose any kind of political disenfranchisement. "This goes in line with the new constitution which states that citizens can only be stripped of exercising their political rights if there is a final judicial ruling against them," said Fawzi.

On 8 May, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters ordered that leading officials of Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) be banned from standing in elections.

Fawzi indicated that the law will only ban "those found guilty of involvement in political corruption or tax evasion practices" from standing in elections.

The law gives a Higher Election Committee (HEC), as stipulated by Article 228 of the constitution, absolute powers in supervising the upcoming parliamentary polls. Once a new parliament is elected, the HEC will be dissolved to be replaced by a National Election Commission that will be in charge of supervising all subsequent elections of all kinds.

HEC's orders will not be immune to appeal. Parliamentary candidates will be permitted to file appeals before administrative courts.

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