A new law aimed at regulating Egypt's upcoming presidential polls, which is expected to be issued on Saturday or Sunday, will allow initial election results to be appealed by candidates.
The State Council's Department of Fatwas finished revising the final draft of the law this week. Magdi El-Agati, chairman of the council, said on 27 February that the law would be revised in two days and then sent to President Adly Mansour to be formally issued on Saturday or Sunday.
When the law is endorsed, the Presidential Electoral Commission (PEC), a 5-member judicial body tasked with supervising the upcoming presidential polls, will hold a meeting to begin the process of planning the upcoming polls.
Informed sources said on Saturday that the commission’s headquarters had already been relocated from the Cairo district of Heliopolis to the State Information Service in nearby Nasr City to begin preparations.
El-Agati indicated that the 59-article law was passed to the council on 17 February to be scrutinised in constitutional and legal terms. The council, added El-Agati, has since held two meetings, which were attended by Ali Awad, Mansour's legal and constitutional affairs advisor, in a bid to reach agreement on several controversial articles.
According to El-Agati, the council and Mansour's legal team decided to change a lot of the draft law's articles, including Article 7, which opened up PEC's decisions, including those related to results of presidential polls, to appeal.
El-Agati said the council rejected the request of Mansour’s legal team that PEC's decisions be made immune to appeals. "The council concluded that this request violates the new constitution and that appeals in presidential elections should be allowed, but only under strict conditions," El-Agati explained.
"The law was revised in accordance with Article 190 of the newly-approved constitution and as a result we think the final draft of the law has become concise and [the legislation] is immune to judicial challenges," said El-Agati.
According to the semi-final draft of Article 7, the right to file appeals will be confined to "those directly concerned with the election process, especially candidates." Appeals against a PEC decision will also have to be filed within two days of PEC's announcement of the decision.
The Supreme Administrative Court will then evaluate the appeals and issue a final verdict within one week.
El-Agati said the amended process allows judicial review of PEC's decisions without "flooding" it with appeals or delaying the ballot process, including the announcement of the final results of the polls. "I think this draft is ideal because it opens the door for exercising a constitutional right, but at the same time it closes this door in the face of excessive or malicious use of this right," said El-Agati.
The amended law also raises the ceiling for campaign spending from LE10 million to LE20 million. In the case of a run-off, the ceiling will be limited to LE5 million. Donations will be deposited in a public sector banking account and revised by the Central Auditing Agency.
Article 23 bans candidates from obtaining any funding from foreign institutions or individuals. Candidates will have to submit a detailed statement of the money they spent on campaigns within 15 days of the date of the announcement of the final result of polls. If a candidate fail to meet this condition, they will be subject to a fine of between LE5,000 and LE10,000.
El-Agati said the demand that the campaigning period must be one month had been rejected. "We think that three weeks is a very sufficient period, taking into consideration that candidates can now have easy access to citizens via the internet and other media outlets," he said.
Article 18 of the law was amended to impose an outright ban on using the walls of government-owned or private buildings for campaigning purposes. Election posters and billboards must be put up in designated places.
El-Agati also indicated that Article 1 was amended to stipulate that a presidential candidate must be a university graduate and that he/she must be free from any physical or mental illnesses that might negatively affect the performance of his/her presidential duties.
As a result, the amended Article 11 will oblige candidates to undergo medical check-ups and provide a certificate from the health ministry stating they meet this criteria.
El-Agati said the demand that candidate's family members, including children, must not hold dual nationality had been rejected on the grounds that this contravenes Article 141 of the new constitution. As a result, the original text of Article 1 will be maintained, stating that the president of the republic must be born to Egyptian parents and that neither the candidate’s parents nor his or her spouse may hold dual nationality.
Finally, El-Agati revealed that Article 49 was amended to increase penalties for those found guilty of resorting to violence -- in the form of mounting terrorist acts or damaging public buildings -- aimed at hampering the election process. Offenders will face three years in prison and a fine of LE5,000.