Egypt revelled last week as her new President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in. The event took place at the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) where Sisi took oath before the panel of SCC judges,
in presence of the heads and delegates of friendly States. A reception was later held during which, in a ritual that was a first in Egypt’s history, interim President Adly Mansour officially handed office to President Sisi. According to the established protocol, the event was attended by public figures, heads of States, ministers and diplomats, as well as leaders of various international authorities who were introduced to the President, marking the start of his term and subsequent interaction with them.
Egyptians from all walks of life publicly and privately rejoiced over the headway they had made along their Roadmap to a democratic future for Egypt. The Roadmap had been jointly drawn by representatives of Egypt’s various civic sectors, the military, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, and the Pope of the Coptic Church following the overthrow on 3 July 2013 of the Islamist president Muhammad Mursi who was a Muslim Brother. Last Sunday Egyptians had in office a president whom they had elected by a landslide 97 per cent in an unprecedented 47 per cent turnout, and last January they had passed a constitution—again with a landslide 98 per cent vote—widely described as the best in Egypt’s modern history. As President Sisi so aptly put it, Egyptians were now embarking on a “new phase of hard, arduous work” to bring back to health an ailing Egypt that had floundered on all fronts since the Arab Spring revolution in January 2011.
The final step waiting to be accomplished on the Roadmap is the establishment of a new parliament. Earlier this month, the long awaited law for exercise of political rights, commonly known as the parliamentary elections law, was issued by the interim President Mansour before President Sisi came to office. Mr Mansour had the wisdom to have this law in place at the right time, to spare Sisi and the Egyptian people the hassle and conflict that may arise on its account.
Following is a quick reading in the law which we should one and all meticulously study. Come polling time, we must vote in a parliament representative of all sectors of Egyptians to undertake the responsibility of passing laws, monitoring the performance of official bodies, and taking to account whoever errs or betrays the people.
• Article 1: The first House of Representatives (HOR) is formed following the activation of the Constitution established on 18 January 2014, of 540 members elected by secret ballot. The President of the Republic may appoint no more than 5 per cent of the members according to the measures stipulated by the law.
• Article 2 offers a precise definition of “farmer”, “labourer”, “youth”, “person with disability”, and “Egyptian living outside Egypt”. It is no secret that this blocks all attempts before unqualified persons who aim at sneaking into parliament by falsely claiming to belong to any of the above sectors.
• Article 3: to fill the HOR seats, 420 members are elected through the individual system, and 120 through an absolute closed list system. Parties and independents have the right to run on both systems.
• Article 4: The Arab Republic of Egypt is divided into a number of constituencies for election according to the individual system, and four constituencies for election according to the lists system. Two of these constituencies are assigned 15 seats each, and 45 seats are assigned to each of the other two constituencies.
• Article 5: The electoral list must include a number of candidates equal to the number that should be elected in the constituency, in addition to an equal number of reservists. For the first HOR elections after this law is put into action, each 15-seat list must include three Christians, two farmers or labourers, two youth candidates, one disabled person and one Egyptian who resides outside Egypt. The list must also include at least seven female candidates. The 45-seat lists must each include nine Christians, at least six farmers and labourers, six youth candidates, three disabled persons, and three Egyptians who reside outside Egypt. The list must also include at least 21 female candidates. The Reserve List must include the same above mentioned numbers and attributes.
• Article 6: A precondition for membership in the HOR is for the member to maintain the attribute according to which he or she was elected. The membership of a member who loses this attribute or changes party affiliation or independency is dropped a by a two-third HOR majority decision.
• Article 7: The HOR term is five years on the Gregorian calendar, starting the date of the first HOR meeting. The new council is elected during the 60 days that precede the end of term of the running one.
• Article 8: A candidate running for the membership of the HOR must be an Egyptian holding the Egyptian nationality alone, entitled to all civic and political rights, and registered on the voter database. Age on the date of candidacy must be no less than 25 years on the Gregorian calendar. A candidate must hold at least a primary school certificate, must have accomplished military service or been legally exempted from it, and must not have lost the HOR membership on account of its having been dropped for lack of confidence or for failing the duties of membership.
• Article 17: The candidacy of men of the Armed Forces, the Police or the General Intelligence; or members of the Administrative Supervision Apparatus, judiciary authorities; ministers and their deputies; governors and their deputies; and heads and members of independent authorities and control apparatuses, will not be accepted before they resign their jobs or posts.
• Article 18: Every individual candidate, party candidate, or candidate on an electoral list, has the right to acquire information on the voters in the constituency concerned. This includes the name of every voter, his or her balloting station, and the number on the voter list.
• Article 27: The president may appoint a number of members to the HOR at a proportion that does not exceed 5 per cent of the elected members; at least half of those appointed should be women. The purpose is to represent the experts and exceptional achievers in the scientific and practical fields, and the sectors whose representation he sees as necessary. This must be done according to Articles 243 and 244 of the Constitution, while respecting the following measures:
1. Anyone appointed must answer to the same conditions required for candidacy to the HOR.
2. No number of people belonging to the same party may be appointed to shift the parliamentary majority.
3. No member belonging to the party of which the president was member before he took office may be appointed.
4. No candidate who ran for the parliamentary elections that particular legislative term and lost may be appointed.
• Article 28: The decision to appoint members to the HOR is to be published in the official paper. The appointed members are to enjoy the same rights and duties as the elected members of the council.
These are the main features of the law. The articles I did not tackle concern procedural aspects and measures of candidacy, announcement of results, run-offs, appeals and the like. This takes us to the effective electoral battle or what I call “the hardest and most serious challenge in the Roadmap”: the formation and managing of strong political and party unions and coalitions to run in the parliamentary elections. This will be the core of my concern, follow up and analysis in the upcoming period.
15 June 2014