Egypt's National Dialogue’s Committee on Exercising Political Rights and Parliamentary Representation witnessed on Sunday a heated debate as representatives of different political parties, MPs and experts discussed which election law to adopt for the 2025 parliamentary elections.
The pro-government parliamentary majority party of Mostaqbal Watan said it supports maintaining the current "closed list system".
Alaa Abed, deputy chairman of Mostaqbal Watan, asserted that the closed party list system allows only strong political parties to join parliament and leads voters to focus on election platforms rather than on individuals.
"Due to the adoption of a mixed system of individual candidacy and closed party list in 2020's parliamentary elections, we now have more than eleven political parties which have seats in parliament," said Abed.
He also argued that a mixed system guarantees political stability for Egypt in a volatile region.
Abed also maintained that the proportional list system probably violates the constitution, “which stipulates that certain society segments – such as women and youth – be represented in parliament with certain quotas."
"A new parliament elected by a proportional list system could be invalidated by the Supreme Constitutional Court," said Abed.
The closed party list system, which has been used in Egypt since 2015, allows political parties with the majority of votes in a certain district to win all the votes.
On the other hand, the representatives of the opposition called for adopting the unconditional proportional list system – rather than a closed list system – to elect the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2025's parliamentary elections.
The unconditional proportional system allows each party list to gain seats in proportion to the votes it wins in a certain district. Hence, the system does not stipulate that a political party should get a certain percent threshold in order to be eligible to win seats and join parliament.
Opposition forces and Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie said they reject the closed party list system as it requires that a party list should gain a certain percent of the overall votes in order to be eligible to win seats and join parliament.
They added that if a certain list gets less than the percent threshold, it loses the votes it won to the party with the majority of votes.
"The closed party list system is unfair to most opposition parties, which have been unable to join parliament since 2015," said Ahmed El-Sharkawy, a representative of the Egyptian socialist democratic party.
El-Sharkawy also rejected claims that the proportional representation system went against the constitution.
"An open list system allowing each list of party-based candidates to get seats in proportion to the votes it wins in each district does justice to all parties and does not go against the constitution – which states that Egypt's political system is based on the multi-party list system," he said.
Mahmoud Fawzi, secretary-general of the National Dialogue, said the proportional representation system might make it easy for political parties to join parliament, but will make it difficult for parliament to exercise its legislative roles.
"A parliament with representatives from many political parties will make it difficult to reach consensus on legislations," said Fawzi.
Fawzi's argument faced strong objections from Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie and most opposition forces.
"A proportional list system goes in line with Article 102 of the constitution, which states that elections shall be held via the individual system, the list system or a combination of both," said Rabie.
He indicated that a proportional list system that allows political parties to join parliament is necessary for a vibrant political and parliamentary life in Egypt.
Rabie, also a prominent parliamentary researcher, complained that "the closed list system has been exploited to create toothless and rubber-stamp parliaments, thus opening the door for loyalists, wealthy businessmen and relatives to sweep the elections and win seats."
"The closed list system leads to inheritance of power and creates appointed, rather than elected, deputies in parliament," said Rabie.
For his part, Diaaeddin Dawoud, a leftist MP, said that enforcing the closed list system once more constitutes “a major political setback.”
He added that as a result of this system people have become “unsatisfied with the current parliament’s performance.”
Dawoud also argued that Egypt desperately needs “forceful political parties,” which can only be created by changing legislations regulating parliamentary elections, political parties and press and media freedoms.
Diaa Rashwan, the National Dialogue's General Coordinator, then intervened to help find a common ground among participants.
Rashwan said that he does not agree with Fawzi and that he is in favor of the proportional representation list system. He stressed, however, the need for all interlocutors to listen to each other during the dialogue.
The coordinator further stated that whether the participants end up choosing one election system or more than one system, their suggestions will be submitted to the president so that he becomes fully acquainted with the open and free discussions that were held.