Egypt's Mahlab to meet with political forces to discuss electoral laws Tuesday

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 6 Apr 2015

Long-delayed parliamentary polls may kick off by June, says parliamentary affairs minister

 Egyptian parliament
File Photo: A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: AP)

The first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections could begin before the middle of June, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice ‎Ibrahim El-Heneidy ‎said on Monday.

The elections were due to begin on 21 March but were postponed after a court ruling found the electoral constituencies law to be unconstitutional. The elections would be the first parliamentary polls since the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

In a statement to parliamentary reporters after a meeting with Japan's ambassador to Egypt, Takehiro Kagawa, El-Heneidy said that Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and ‎representatives of different political forces are ‎scheduled to meet Tuesday in a second round of the national dialogue to review a new batch of proposed amendments to election laws and see which ones gain consensus.

"We hope that these discussions and other deliberations being carried out by a government-appointed committee in charge of revising election laws will finally pave the way for parliamentary elections," said El-Heneidy.

El-Heneidy said the national dialogue meetings are expected to ‎continue beyond the current month of April. This means ‎that new parliamentary elections – or at least the first ‎stage - can go ahead of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, ‎scheduled to begin 18 June, and then continue after ‎Ramadan, he added.‎

The minister indicated that Tuesday's meeting, the second within the framework of a national dialogue process between Mahlab and the government on one side and political forces on the other,  is expected to be attended by a list of political ‎parties, on top of which the Salafist ‎Nour Party.

"The government ‎is keen that parliamentary elections be held as soon as ‎possible, but it also wants to make sure that the coming ‎parliaments stand on solid constitutional grounds," he added.

The first meeting, held on 2 April, drew representatives from 11 political parties and a number of public figures.

Political representatives who attended the 2 April meeting said a consensus has emerged over the necessity of changing electoral constituencies law.

Writer and politician Mostafa Bakri told Ahram Online that "the majority of political parties do not want patchwork amendments to the constituencies law in order to merely by in line with the constitution."

"They want to be completely overhauled to allow increasing the number of constituencies reserved to competition among party-based candidates from four to eight," said Bakri. "This means that either the number of party list seats should increase from 120 to 180 or that they remain 120 but the boundaries of constituencies change."

The electoral constituencies law was ruled unconstitutional on 1 March by the Supreme Constitutional Court which stressed that it fell short of achieving equality among independent candidates in 13 governorates. El-Heneidy said the most likely scenario is that the number of independent seats be increased from 420 to 460, thus raising the total number of parliament seats to 567 to 587 or 588.

"We are also open to proposals aimed at increasing the number of seats allocated to party candidates," said El-Heneidy, but insisted that "a proposal that the total number of parliamentary seats be increased to 600 is rejected."

Bakri also said that politicians were almost unanimous that the Supreme Constitution Court exercises a pre-scrutiny of laws.

 El-Heneidy said that "in responding to this demand, the government said that it is welcome because it helps keep the coming parliament immune to any constitutional challenges."

The minister also said that this demand will not require amendment of the constitution or a public referendum as some thought, but "will simply necessitate prior approval by the Supreme Constitutional Cour'ts general assembly."

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