Preparations for Egypt's parliamentary elections to go ahead after Al-Adha feast

Gamal Essam El-Din, Monday 15 Sep 2014

Informed sources indicated Monday that preparations for Egypt's parliamentary polls will begin after Eid Al-Adha holiday

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

The Higher Election Committee (HEC), a seven-member judicial body in charge of overseeing parliamentary polls, is expected to complete all measures necessary for parliamentary polls to be held before the end of this year.

Sources close to Egypt's transitional justice minister and house of representatives affairs, Ibrahim El-Heneidy told a number of parliamentary reporters that HEC is expected to meet after the one week Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, scheduled to begin on 4 October.

The HEC meetings will also come after the government has almost finalised drafting a new electoral districts law. Minister El-Heneidy unveiled last week that the redrawing of electoral districts, the last obstacle before elections can be held, is almost complete.

El-Heneidy indicated that the law gained initial approval in a cabinet meeting last month, only to be referred to a special technical committee to put it into a final form. Sources said the committee has almost finalised drafting the law and it is expected to be finally passed by the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab in a new cabinet meeting after Eid Al-Adha

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the Mahlab government have been under pressure in recent weeks to push procedures for the polls forward. While some political forces accused El-Sisi’s government of dragging their feet on the implementation of parliamentary polls, others believe the government sought to delay the process for security reasons.

El-Sisi appears to also be facing growing international pressure. In a press conference on 13 September, US Secretary of State John Kerry cited a discussion with President El-Sisi where the Egyptian President assured him that parliamentary polls and other democratic measures would be held before the end of this year.

Egypt's upcoming parliamentary polls represent the third part of a political roadmap that has been adopted since the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, 2013. The first two parts included passing a new constitution in a public referendum last January, and the election of a new president in May.

Sources expect that HEC will meet in the second week of October to announce the dates of registration and campaigning for the polls

It is anticipated that parliamentary polls will be held over three stages, with each stage including nine governorates. If everything goes smoothly, by January or February at the latest, Egypt will see a new parliament meeting for the first time in two years.

The previous parliament, dominated by Islamists and held for just five months, was dissolved upon a final verdict from the High Constitutional Court in June, 2012 on the grounds that the election law was discriminatory and especially biased against independent candidates.

Sources said the first stage will include governorates of Cairo, Alexandria, and the Nile delta governorates of Qalyubia, Gharbia, Menoufia, Daqahlia, Kafr El-Sheikh, Beheira and Marsa Matruh.

The second stage includes Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, Sohag, Qena, Luxor and Aswan.

The third stage includes the governorates of Suez, Ismailia, Port Said, Sharqiya, Damietta, North and South Sinai, the Red Sea, the New Valley.  

HEC, upon an invitation from president El-Sisi, met for the first time on 15 July. This is came in response to the constitution which stipulates that preparations for parliamentary polls must begin within six months from the passing of the national charter.

The 15 July's HEC meeting, however, was followed by forming a secretariat-general and selecting a spokesperson. HEC's spokesperson Medhat Idris told Al-Ahram newspaper last week that preparations for the polls have so far included updating national voter lists and other logistical procedures. "Right now," said Idris, “we are waiting for an electoral districts law to be finalised by the government and for the selection of judges entrusted with supervising polling stations to set a date for registration, campaigning and voting."

Idris unveiled that as many as 16,000 judges will take part in supervising the polls.

Other sources also cited the necessity that the interior ministry gives a green light for HEC to go ahead, assuring that security conditions in some terror-stricken governorates like North Sinai, are good enough for the polls to be held.

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