Egypt PM and opposition to discuss gap over electoral reforms soon

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 25 Mar 2015

Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and representatives of political forces are to hold a national dialogue meeting over proposed electoral reforms after Sharm Arab summit

Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab speaks during a a televised news conference at his office in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, July 5, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim Al-Heneidy disclosed on Tuesday that a meeting between Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and representatives of mainstream political parties will be held very soon to pave the way for Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary elections.

"The meeting is expected after a two-day Arab summit scheduled to be held at the Red Sea resort of Sharm Sheikh on 28-29 March, aiming to close the gap between the government and opposition over a number of electoral reforms that can open the way for parliamentary elections," said Heneidy.

Heneidy, in a statement to parliamentary reporters on Tuesday, said a government-appointed committee in charge of drafting election laws will meet on Thursday to prepare the agenda of the meeting between Mahlab and opposition forces.

Heneidy indicated that "proposed amendments to three laws on the division of electoral constituencies, the workings of the house of representatives, and the performance of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC)" will be at the top of the agenda for the meeting with Mahlab.

Heneidy explained that "some revolutionary forces want the constituencies law to be changed completely rather than just be amended to comply with two rulings issued by the SCC on the first and seventh of March," said Heneidy.

Heneidy, who is also head of the government-appointed drafting committee, indicated that political forces were allowed to submit proposals after the SCC ruled the current Constituencies Law unconstitutional upon grounds that it discriminates among independent candidates.

"But the proposals aiming to change the law completely cannot be accepted because this contradicts with the SCC's ruling which recommended that boundaries of constituencies for independent candidates in 13 governorates be redrawn to achieve equality," said Heneidy, indicating that "the meeting with Mahlab will try its best to close the gap over tricky issue."

According to Heneidy, some political forces proposed 40 percent of seats be allocated to independents, 40 per cent to party candidates, and 20 per cent to marginally represented brackets such as women and Copts.

"Others propose 40 percent be allocated to independents, 40 percent to proportional lists, and 20 per cent to absolute or majority lists," said Heneidy, arguing that "the latter proposal might be ruled unconstitutional because Article 102 of the constitution allows a mix of independent and party list systems, but not a mix of two forms of one electoral system."

Heneidy added that other political parties propose the total seats be equally divided between independents and party candidates, with 50 per cent to each.

Heneidy said while political forces disagreed over electoral amendments, they were united in the necessity of amending the SCC's law to allow it to exercise a pre-scrutiny of election laws.

"The meeting with Mahlab will also discuss this issue and we will see whether this goes in line with the constitution or not," said Heneidy.

Salah Fawzi, a member of the committee and a professor of constitutional law at Mansoura University, told reporters that he believes "the constitution has to be amended first to allow a pre-scrutiny of laws by the SCC and this could be an obstacle."

The meeting with Mahlab is also expected to discuss proposed amendments of the House of Representatives Law – popularly known as the parliamentary elections law.

"We will see how Egyptians with dual nationality or those who had not been able to perform military service for different reasons can be allowed to run," said Heneidy.

Heneidy disclosed that the drafting committee has already finalised amending Article 8 of the House law to bring it in line with the SCC's ruling on 7 March.

"The amendment allows Egyptians with dual nationality to run for parliament, but with the stipulation that they are in full exercise of their political and civilian rights," said Heneidy, referring to the fact that "the nationality law stipulates that naturalised citizens can exercise political rights, including the right to run for parliament, only after five years of gaining "Egyptian nationality."

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