People's Assembly approves amendments to Egypt's presidential law

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 28 Feb 2012

Changes aim to promote transparency in presidential polls but keep election commission's decisions impervious to appeal

peoples assembly
Egypt's current People's Assembly (Photo: Reuters)

The People's Assembly, Egypt's lower house of parliament, has approved amendments of a law from 2005 regulating presidential elections. The amendments, submitted by three deputies, aim to secure more transparency for the upcoming presidential elections.

"This comes through allowing auxiliary polling stations to take charge of counting votes of citizens and to announce the results in the presence of representatives of civil society organisations and media," said independent MP Mohamed El-Omda.

Under the 2005 law, the process of counting votes takes place at the main polling stations only. "This required transporting the voting boxes from auxiliary to main polling station, with the danger that these boxes become subject to rigging and fraud," argued El-Omda.

The newly amended law will be referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court for revision within a period of 15 days, to ensure that it conforms to the Constitutional Declaration promulgated on 30 March, 2011.

During the debates, deputies of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) rejected the amending of article 28 of the Constitutional Declaration which makes the decisions of the Presidential Election Commission immune from any appeals.

Hussein Ibrahim, the parliamentary spokesman of the FJP, rejected amending the article. "This article is part of the Constitutional Declaration which was approved by Egyptian citizens in a public referendum last March," said Hussein, adding that "any amendment will require amending the Declaration and putting it up for a referendum again."

Liberal and leftist deputies, however, rejected Ibrahim's argument, insisting that article 28 of the declaration could be amended without putting the matter up for a referendum.

In the meantime, the Assembly rejected a request submitted by 32 deputies, asking that deputy and journalist Mostafa Bakri be referred to the ethics committee for "slandering Mohamed ElBaradei, the ex-chief of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."

Mohamed Abu Hamed, a liberal MP, said that Bakri had accused ElBaradei of working as an agent of the United States.

"This causes a lot of harm to one of the greatest symbols of the January 25 Revolution and makes him subject to assault on the street," said Abu Hamed.

In defending himself, Bakri said that he had never said ElBaradei was a traitor or accused him of treason.

"All I said is that the anarchists are manipulated by ElBaradei and this is true."

Bakri said he has documents and videos demonstrating that some anarchists were referred to trial on charges of obtaining illegal money from the US. "ElBaradei supported them and described them as icons of freedom," said Bakri.

When the matter was subjected to a vote, the deputies of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour Party stood against referring Bakri to the ethics committee.

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