Problems on hold
Discussions in Watani Forum had barely started on political parties in Egypt, with the aim of finding a way out of the notorious prevalent party feebleness and fragmentation, when news got around of a merger between the party Mustaqbal Watan (Future of a Nation) and the political movement Maan Min Agl Masr (Together for Egypt). The news gained in significance when some 50 MPs decided to walk out of the parties they belonged to and join Mustaqbal Watan. Al-Masriyeen al-Ahrar (The Free Egyptians), the party that holds the largest number of seats in parliament, saw the largest number of MP walkout to Mustaqbal Watan. There was talk in the media of substantial restructuring of the parliamentary majority, and on where the Constitution and House of Representatives bylaws stood vis-à-vis the merger and MP shift.
Given that mergers among political movements and/or parties inevitably lead to strong blocs in place of feeble, fragmented forces, Watani’s stance has been to welcome integration. We realise that, by definition, mergers or coalitions and alliances imply commotion and activity on the party scene. However, activity based on composed, calculated planning should reflect positively on the party, political and parliamentary map, and should avoid conflict with or violation of the Constitution and the law.
I had imagined that the desired changes on the party map would be the fruit of coordination and cooperation between the blocs under formation, basing on their political identity and programmes. I thought that these blocs would strive to build a strong presence on the street, in order to be able to successfully contend elections. The upcoming local government elections will be the first test to the clout of each political bloc, given that local government is a vital component in the democratic system. Parliamentary elections will follow on the heels of local government elections, putting the political blocs to the real test and determining a new majority and opposition in parliament.
On the ground, however, the integration of Mustaqbal Watan and Maan Min Agl Masr gave rise to heated speculation on restructuring the majority inside the current House of Representatives. Talks focused on the dislodging of the current majority coalition Daam Masr (Supporting Egypt), and the debilitating loss of seats by al-Masriyeen al-Ahrar. Instead of allowing a much-needed remedy to take its course, an uncalled-for conflict was fuelled. Surprisingly, it appeared that no one had bothered to consult the Constitution and the law on the legality of the changed character of parliament.
Article 110 of the Constitution stipulates that membership in the House of Representatives may only be dropped if a member loses confidence or esteem, ceases to satisfy any membership condition on which his or her election was based, or compromises the obligations of membership. Article 6 of the Law of the House of Representatives stipulates that for a member in the House to retain his or her membership, he or she must maintain the capacity on which their election was based. A member who loses this capacity or changes the party affiliation according to which he or she were elected; if a member becomes independent or if an independent MP joins a party, membership is dropped through a decision by a two-thirds majority of members of the House of Representatives.
The legislation is thus clear-cut; no member of the House of Representatives may change the capacity according to which he or she joined the House, whether as party member or independent. This stands to reason, since it defends the will of the voters who elected him or her in the first place, whether individually or within a list. Those involved in the merger between Mustaqbal Watan and Maan Min Agl Masr are fully aware of these facts, the proof is that some of them have started calling for amendment of Article 110 of the Constitution and Article 6 of the Law for the House of Representatives. They do as they please, then attempt to bend the Constitution and the law to their whims with not the slightest regard to the will of the voters.
Democracy cannot be steered this way. The great national objective of reforming the party map should not be handled with such whimsical recklessness. We need calm planning and adequate preparation for the upcoming elections. There is no if or but about respecting the Constitution and the law.
3 June 2018