Egypt cabinet to discuss constitutionality of election laws amendments

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 20 Jun 2015

State Council Judge Magdi Al-Agati announces that new amendments to Egypt's three election laws drafted by a government committee were endorsed by the council's legislation and fatwas department

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo:Reuters)

Amendments to three laws aimed at paving the way for Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary elections are expected to be discussed by the cabinet in a plenary meeting this week. 

The three laws regulate the division of electoral constituencies, the workings of the House of Representatives, and the exercise of political rights.

According to Judge Magdi Al-Agati, chairman of the State Council's legislation and fatwas department, the amendments, as revised by the department in constitutional and legal terms over one month, were referred back to Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice Ibrahim Al-Heneidy last Wednesday.

"We hope our revision will ensure that the three laws no longer face any constitutional challenges and finally open the way for parliamentary elections," said Al-Agati.

Egypt's parliamentary elections, which were scheduled to be held in March, were postponed after the High Constitutional Court (HCC) ruled the distribution of voters among constituencies lacked equality.

Minister Al-Heneidy told reporters Saturday that he has already received the revised amendments and that "they are expected to be discussed by the cabinet in its plenary meeting this week."

"For my part, I have sent a copy of these revised amendments to the Higher Election Commission (HEC) — the judicial body in charge of supervising Egypt's parliamentary elections — to give its final say over the revised laws and whether it has any remarks," said Al-Heneidy.

Al-Agati indicated that the State Council recommended a few minor amendments, mostly related to the constituencies law. "We recommended some changes in a very limited number of independent constituencies in three governorates: Cairo and the two Upper Egypt governorates of Minya and Qena."

"In Cairo," said Al-Agati, "we recommended the six constituencies of Al-Ameriya, Al-Zeitoun, Helwan, Al-Maasara, Al-Khalifa, and Al-Darb Al-Ahmar remain separate, with each returning two MPs."

In Al-Minya, Al-Agati said, "We recommended that the two constituencies of Maghagha and Al-Idwa be merged together as one constituency, and in Qena governorate we saw that the two constituencies of Qaft and Qena be merged together but with returning four independent MPs, while the constituency of Qous remain separate to return two MPs."

Al-Agati also indicated that the State Council demanded that the distribution of voters among constituencies be based on population statistics in May, rather than in January.

"The statistics in May show that the total number of population of Egypt stood at 88,632,963 million and the total number of registered voters stood at 55,471,380," said Al-Agati, adding that "This is different from the January statistics adopted by the government committee charged with drafting the constituencies law."

"The January statistics show the population of Egypt stood at 87,963,276 million and the number of registered voters at 55,15,248 million," said Al-Agati.

According to Al-Agati, "The difference between the January and May statistics is significant enough to justify changing the number of voters in each district."

Al-Heneidy said the government-appointed drafting committee, which he heads, will take the State Council's recommendations into consideration.

"The committee will take these recommendations, together with HEC's remarks, into account before we refer the semi-final draft of the constituencies law to the cabinet in its coming meeting," he said.

Al-Heneidy, however, added that, "The State Council's few recommendations show that the new amendments of the three election laws generally go in line with the new constitution."

"We agreed together that the difference in number of voters between one constituency and another does not exceed 10 per cent, as stipulated by the HCC," said Al-Heneidy.

Al-Heneidy added that the State Council and the government committee reached agreements on most articles of the three election laws. We agreed that the total number of parliamentary seats remain unchanged at 596 and that constituencies allocated to competition among party lists also remain unchanged at four.

"On the controversial constituencies reserved to competition among independents, we also decided that these decrease by only one, from 206 to 205," said Al-Heneidy.

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