Egypt's cabinet to discuss laws on anti-terrorism, ‎parliamentary elections

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 8 Jul 2015

Four election laws paving the way for Egypt's ‎parliamentary elections will be referred Wednesday to ‎president Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi for ratification‎

Ibrahim El-Heneidy
Transitional Justice Minister Ibrahim El-Heneidy (Photo: Al-Ahram)

A number of controversial laws setting the stage for ‎Egypt's parliamentary elections and toughening ‎penalties on terrorism crimes will be on the top of the ‎weekly meeting of Egypt's cabinet on Wednesday.‎

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional ‎Justice Ibrahim Al-Heneidy told parliamentary reporters ‎that the discussion of a new tougher anti-terrorism law ‎will be discussed, taking into account "reservations ‎expressed by some opposition forces and the press ‎syndicate over a number of articles related to freedom ‎of speech and the jailing of journalists for publication ‎offences."‎

A meeting will be held between Prime Minister Ibrahim ‎Mahlab and a number of editors of national and private ‎newspapers in a bid to reach common ground on some ‎of its controversial articles.‎

Heneidy indicated that a raft of election laws, ‎approved by the cabinet last week, will be referred ‎Wednesday to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for ‎ratification, opening the way for the long-delayed ‎parliamentary elections to officially kick off. ‎

Heneidy said the laws regulate the division of electoral ‎constituencies, the workings of the house of ‎representatives, and the exercise of political rights. "The ‎constituencies law is the most important because it was ‎the main obstacle which led to postponing ‎parliamentary elections last March," said Heneidy.‎

Heneidy told reporters that a committee comprising a ‎number of national experts on election laws did its best ‎to ensure that the final draft of the law goes in line with the ‎constitution and the orders issued by the Supreme ‎Constitutional Court (SCC) last March.‎

According to Heneidy, the committee adopted five ‎criterion in drafting the constituencies law. "The first is ‎that the new draft observes equality in terms of ‎distribution of voters among districts," said Heneidy.‎

The draft law's explanatory note states that the ‎distribution of voters was based on the most up-to-date ‎statistics officially released on population and ‎distribution of voters in Egypt in May rather than ‎January.

"These indicate that the number of registered ‎voters in Egypt reached 55.471.390 million voters while ‎the number of population stood at 87.632.963 million," ‎said the note.‎

In light of the above figures, Heneidy said, it was ‎calculated that the density of voters per constituency ‎should stand at 160,831. "This applies to independent ‎constituencies which will reach 205, electing 448 MPs," ‎said Heneidy.‎

Heneidy argued that there could be slight differences ‎among voters in different independent constituencies. ‎‎"As you know, it is impossible to observe absolute ‎equality in terms of number of voters among ‎constituencies," said Heneidy.‎

As for the second criterion, Heneidy indicated that "in ‎accordance with the constitution and SCC's orders, the ‎draft committee did its best to ensure that the ‎difference in number of voters doesn't exceed 25 per ‎cent between one constituency and another." ‎

Heneidy disclosed that the State Council, after its ‎revision of the three election laws, recommended that ‎the difference doesn't exceed 10 per cent rather than 25 ‎per cent.

"But it was quite difficult, if not impossible, to ‎implement this recommendation as a 10 per cent ‎difference would sure lead to widening the boundaries ‎of constituencies to unprecedented levels, not to ‎mention disrupting the social and tribal cohesion in ‎different parts of the country," said Heneidy, also ‎indicating that the 10 per cent difference was rejected ‎by the interior ministry for security reasons.

Heneidy also disclosed that the draft law has excluded ‎‎"the country's border governorates from the above ‎criterion."

"These governorates are of a particular ‎importance to Egypt in terms of national security and ‎geographical interests," said Heneidy, also indicating ‎‎"these governorates do not have high population ‎density, which makes it difficult to apply the criterion ‎adopted in the country's other governorates."‎

Egypt has six border governorates: North Sinai, South ‎Sinai, Marsa Matruh, the New Valley, the Red Sea and ‎Aswan.‎

In general, concluded Heneidy, the draft law states that ‎Egypt's parliament will comprise of 596 deputies, 448 ‎independents, 120 party-based MPs and 28 as ‎presidential appointees. It also specifies that 448 ‎independents will be elected from 205 constituencies ‎and 120 party MPs from four constituencies.‎

If ratified by El-Sisi, the Higher Election Committee ‎should meet to set a timeline for the polls.‎


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