Problems on hold
Today should see the Presidential Elections Law printed in the official paper as scheduled, and tomorrow 10 February the law should go into effect.
Egypt should thus be poised to elect its new president, the second step on the Roadmap to a democratic, modern State; the first was the setting up of a new Constitution, and was achieved last month. The Roadmap was drawn by the representatives of the various sectors of the Egyptian community, together with the military, in the wake of the 30 June 2013 Revolution which overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) President Muhammad Mursi and his Islamist regime.
I have scrupulously scrutinised the Presidential Elections Law and believe it was astutely drafted and has taken into account all the details and intricacies involved in the election process. The law has been thoroughly dissected and analysed by the media, but it worries me deeply that very few people have bothered to read it. This is part of a deplorable attitude widespread among the public, including the well-educated elite, to garner information on critical or significant issues—in this case the Presidential Elections Law—from the media instead of going to the original source. True, the media exposes the public to the full spectrum of expert viewpoints and analyses, aiding thus to form an awareness of the issue under question. But the public confine themselves to the role of passive, politically immature receivers, unable to scrutinise, assess and make up their own minds accordingly.
This was especially obvious last month when the new Constitution was put up to the vote. Copies of the Constitution were abundantly available, yet it stunned me to find out that many Egyptians never bothered to read it, and depended instead on TV for information. Even worse, many unashamedly admitted they did not care to read the text of the charter, but approved it unequivocally because they rejected the MB and wished for Egypt to move ahead to a better future. The patriotic motive is undoubtedly commendable, but falls short of taking pains to form a first-hand well-informed opinion.
It is beyond the scope of this editorial to print in full the Presidential Elections Law, but I will shed light on the most important of its articles.
• Article 1: A presidential candidate must be Egyptian, born to Egyptian parents. Neither he, his parents nor his spouse may have held another citizenship. His age must be no less than 40 years on the Gregorian calendar on the day his candidacy is declared.
• Article 2: A candidate must secure the recommendations of at least 20 members of parliament or the endorsement of a minimum 25,000 citizens eligible to vote, in at least 15 governorates, with a minimum 1,000 endorsements from each. In all cases, no one may recommend or endorse more than one candidate.
• Article 3: The Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) is formed and chaired by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). It includes as members the Chairman of the Cairo Appeals Court; the SCC First Deputy Chairman; the First Deputy Chairman of the Court of Cassation; and the First Deputy Chairman of the State Council.
• Article 15: The PEC is in charge of drawing the final list of candidates. It publishes the list in the official paper and in two daily papers of wide circulation at least 25 days prior to the election date set.
• Article 18: Campaigning must abide by the provisions of the Constitution and law, as well as the following regulations: Refrain from violating the privacy of any candidate; commit to preserving national unity; refrain from using religious slogans; and refrain from the use of violence and threats thereof. Gifts, donations and material or monetary aid is banned. The use of State institutions for campaigning is banned. The use of government premises, public facilities, places of worship, schools, universities, and headquarters of civil societies or institutions to campaign is banned. The use of public funds in campaigning is banned.
• Article 20: Opinion polls publicised by the media concerning the presidential elections must include full information on the authority conducting the poll, the source of its funding, the poll questions, the size and location of the sample involved, the methods of polling and data collection, and the margin of error.
• Article 23: Any donations, monetary or material funding for the campaign by any foreign individual or State or any foreign authority or international organisation or any authority sponsored by a foreign individual or legal personality, is banned.
• Article 26: Balloting must be carried out over one day under complete supervision by the Supreme Elections Committee. If necessary, balloting may be carried out over two consecutive days.
• Article 30: Votes are cast through marking the relevant card. The head of the balloting station must hand out to every voter an open card stamped on the back with the seal of the main elections committee and the date of the ballot.
• Article 35: Balloting for the elections of the President of the Republic is carried out even if one candidate runs, or if he alone remains when all other candidates have pulled out of the race. In this case the name of the candidate who gains the absolute majority of correct votes is announced. If the candidate does not garner this majority, the PEC opens candidacy for another round of elections within no more than 15 days on the date the results are announced. In this case the elections are carried out according to the provisions of this law.
• Article 38: A candidate is pronounced President of the Republic when he garners an absolute majority of correct votes. If none of the candidates garners this majority, the elections are repeated after at least seven days between the two candidates who garnered the highest number of votes. If a third candidate garners the same number of correct votes, he runs in the runoffs, and in this case the candidate who garners the highest number of votes is declared the winner.
• Article 42: Anyone on the voter database who abstains without a plausible excuse from casting his vote in the elections for the President of the Republic is subject to a penalty of no more than EGP500.
• Article 57: Every head of polling station for the elections of the President of the Republic is granted the judicial authority concerning attesting the crimes that occur inside the polling station.
• Article 59: The decision to pass this law shall be published in the official paper and goes into effect on the day following its publication.
These being the main features of the Presidential Elections Law, I wish to remind Egyptians of the importance of going down to vote and not relying on their confidence that any one specific candidate would win. Those who would like to hijack Egypt’s future still wait in the wings for the opportunity to pounce and win for themselves a vantage point, especially given that the step following the presidential elections on the Roadmap will be the parliamentary elections.
9 February 2014