Egypt presidency responds to claims it seeks weak parliament

Ahram Online , Thursday 5 Mar 2015

On Monday, Egyptian Social Democratic Party leader Mohamed Abul-Ghar accused authorities of meddling with laws and electoral lists to create a supportive parliament

Egypt's presidency has responded to an article written by Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) head Mohamed Abul-Ghar, and published in local newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm on Monday, in which he accuses the Egyptian president and state institutions of seeking to create a weak parliament.

"The president has, on several occasions, said that the state does not favour any particular electoral lists or candidates, and does not interfere or support any specific one of them," read a statement from the president's office published in the same newspaper on Thursday.

According to the statement, the president had previously said, in a January meeting with party leaders including Abul-Ghar, that he would only support a parliamentary list if all political forces aligned together and joined it.

Abul-Ghar was a member of the committee in charge of drafting Egypt's current constitution. In his Monday article, titled "The Imaginary Parliament," he accused the authorities, especially the interior ministry, of interfering in electoral law drafting and party list formation, in order to make sure the coming parliament is "decorative" and "doesn't legislate or oversee."

He directly accused the authorities of urging party candidates to join a new party that is said to be funded by the state.

On Sunday, Egypt's parliamentary elections set for March were postponed, after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled one of the laws regulating the poll, the Electoral Constituency Law, to be unconstitutional. The president asked the cabinet to make the necessary amendments to the law within a month.

According to the official statement, the president's keenness to make quick and necessary amendments to the electoral law were proof that Abul-Ghar's claims of the state wanting an "imaginary parliament" were false.

"This proves without doubt the existence of a real will within the state and all its institutions to complete the political roadmap supported by Egyptians," the statement read. "The president has stressed that he […] hopes for a strong house of representatives for Egyptians."

Abul-Ghar insists that the authorities have intentionally delayed parliamentary elections, according to him originally supposed to take place after presidential elections last May.

He claims that legal experts and political forces were sidelined in the drafting of electoral laws that, he says, were laid down to create a toothless parliament.

The presidency also refuted Abul-Ghar's claims that, "in the absence of a parliament, the president has issued a huge amount of laws, some of which are unconstitutional and some of which establish a police state".

Egypt has been without a parliament since the house of representatives elected in late 2011 was dissolved in June 2012, following a court ruling that judged the law regulating its election to be unconstitutional.

Egypt's president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi holds legislative powers until a parliament convenes.

Abul-Ghar, like many Egyptian politicians who supported the 25 January revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak and then supported the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, has been critical of decisions taken by the authorities since late 2013.

In November of that year, a restrictive protest law was issued, arousing the ire of politicians who felt it that would be used as an excuse to crack down on political activity.

"Laws are issued with coordination between the presidency, the cabinet, the ministry of justice and the State Council [a judicial body that advises the government on legislation]," read the presidential statement. "We implore you to point us to the laws that you deem 'unconstitutional' or 'to establish a police state' so that they can be examined."

The statement's introduction however stressed that the president holds the utmost respect and appreciation for Abul-Ghar, describing him as "esteemed on a personal and political level."

The ESDP has decided to participate in the coming parliamentary elections, but Abul-Ghar said in an interview published by Al-Masry Al-Youm on Tuesday that the decision was taken after a party vote, and that he was personally against joining.

Several liberal and leftist parties have announced their boycott of the elections.

A senior ESDP member has told the press that the authorities explicitly warned the party from fielding certain of its members in the parliamentary elections.

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