An Egyptian soldier cleans the gate of the Egyptian parliament in Cairo January 22, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt's cabinet is expected Wednesday to discuss new amendments to two election laws aimed at paving the way for Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary elections. The two laws are on the workings of the House of Representatives and the Division of Electoral Constituencies.
Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim El-Heneidy told reporters Tuesday afternoon that "the two amended laws were submitted to prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab in person in order to be reviewed by the cabinet in a plenary meeting Wednesday."
A draft made available to some parliamentary reporters shows that the number of seats allocated to independent candidates will increase by 22 or from 420 to 442, thus leading to raising the number of seats in Egypt's coming parliament from 567 to a total 589. The division of this new figure goes as follows: 442 to independents, 120 to party-based candidates, and 27 to presidential appointees.
Heneidy said the cabinet's discussion Wednesday will come after a government-appointed committee in charge of amending election laws has finalised amendments of the above two legislations in a meeting Tuesday.
Heneidy disclosed that "Prime Minister Mahlab has urged the committee to finalise the amendments as soon as possible." "He was calling us by phone to insist that the amendments must be finalised this week in order to be discussed by the cabinet Wednesday," said Heneidy.
Ali Abdel-Al, a professor of constitutional law and a member of the committee, told reporters that the new make-up of parliamentary seats was adopted to go in line with a ruling issued by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) on the first of March.
"SCC said the constituencies law must be amended to achieve equality among independent constituencies in 13 governorates in terms in number of voters, " said Abdel-Al, adding that "to meet this constitutional requirement, the committee agreed that the number of independent candidates increase by 22 and that the boundaries of some independent constituencies change.
"We did our best that the difference between voters in independent constituencies does not exceed 25 per cent, as stipulated by SCC," said Abdel-Al, adding that "if the new amendments were approved in concept by the cabinet Wednesday, they would be referred to the State's Council's department of fatwas and legislation to be revised in constitutional terms, and if everything went okay, they would be endorsed by president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi by the end of this month."
Egypt's parliamentary elections were originally scheduled to be held mid-March, but were postponed after some articles of the above two election laws were ruled unconstitutional by SCC.
Meanwhile, Abdel-Ali said most of the amendments proposed by opposition political parties during a national dialogue with prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab between 2 and 9 April were rejected.
"The proposal that the electoral constituencies law must be radically changed in terms of raising the number of of constituencies reserved to competition among party lists from four to eight was dismissed upon the grounds that this goes beyond the scope of SCC's ruling," said Abdel-Al. He added that the proposal aimed at adopting two forms of the party list system – the absolute and proportional lists – was also rejected because it violates article 102 of the constitution.
As a result, said Abdel-Al, the law's article adopting four-party list constituencies with 120 seats will be upheld. "The only change will be with the number of independent candidates and we decided that this increase by 22 seats or from 420 to 442," said Abdel-Al.
Abdel-Al disclosed that a third proposal aimed at allowing SCC exercise a pre-scrutiny of election laws was also rejected. "We found that this proposal is counterproductive because it will not prevent a post-scrutiny of laws by SCC and it will require a change of the constitution," said Abdel-Al.
As for the house of representatives law, Abdel-Al said article 8 will be amended to allow Egyptians with dual nationality and in exercise of their political rights to run for parliament.
"We, however, insisted that those who had not performed military service for excusable reasons cannot run for parliament," said Abdel-Al, referring to the fact that some believe that there should be a time limit in order not to strip military service dodgers of the right of running for parliament for life.
Some informed sources said another two amendments were introduced, the first seeks to strike equality between independent and party candidates in terms of spending on election campaigns. "As for the second, it aims to guarantee equality among female and male MPs in terms of the fact that parliamentary membership of both would be dropped if any decided to change his or her business category (from worker to farmer or to professional and vice versa) or political affiliations (from independent to party MP and vice versa).