Friday, July 22, 2011

Egypt legislative polls under fire

Egyptian Gazette
Ashraf Madbouly

CAIRO - A new law setting rules for the forthcoming legislative polls has come under fire from most political groups and revolutionaries for mixing two electoral systems, keeping half the seats for workers and ignoring the opinions of political powers while issuing the bill.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued the Parliament Law on Wednesday. It reserves 50 per cent of the seats for individuals, while the other half will be contested by closed party lists.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces still behaves as if we were still living before the January 25 revolution. It takes individual decisions, without consulting with any of political parties. The nature of the Parliament Law makes this obvious," said Ahmed Ramzi.

Ramzi, a senior member of the Free Front for Peaceful Change, added that his group, as well as most political parties, did not welcome the law for four reasons.

"Our four reservations are: the reserving of half of the seats for workers and farmers; mixing the individual system and the closed party lists; Parliament having the right to keep or fire MPs; and the fact that the issue of religious slogans has been ignored," Ramzi told the Gazette by phone.

He added that lowering the age of potential candidates to 25 years is beneficial. "However, the law in general is disappointing.”

The mix of two election systems goes against the will of the majority of political parties, headed by the liberal-oriented Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

Both insist that the individual candidacies be scrapped and the party-list system adopted in its entirety.

"The individual electoral system opens the way for thuggery and money to play a role in the process. This will serve the interests of businessmen and the remnants of the dissolved National [Democratic] Party," said Bahaa Abou Shoqa, a senior member of the Wafd Party.

He added that the closed party list could have help form a national unity government, in which all parties can be represented.

Abou Shoqa said lowering the age of candidates to 25 would help young people play a greater role in future political life.

"However, young men cannot get a national service certificate to forward to the electoral committee before reaching the age of 30. This is a clear loophole," he added.   

Voters will cast ballots for both the lower and upper houses at the same time in three stages, while a period of 15 days will separate one stage from the next, allowing for a re-run to be held, if that should prove necessary.

The purpose of this two-week space is to allow the judges to thoroughly monitor the polling.

"It's great to have judicial supervision. However, it is not clear why international monitors have been excluded," said Professor of Politics Moustafa Kamel el-Sayyed.

Most opposition parties welcome full judicial supervision of the elections. Some, however, are worried about international monitors being prevented from participating in the overseeing of the polls.

"The SCAF has espoused the Mubarak’s regime's idea that international monitors are against national sovereignty and this is wrong," el-Sayyed explained.

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