The Shura Council has said it will vote on the parliamentary elections law and send it to the Supreme Constitutional Court by the end of its Saturday session.
The upper house of parliament was originally meant to vote on the proposed bill on Thursday but walkouts by Salafi Al-Nour Party, the second largest parliamentary bloc, as well as other smaller parties, forced Shura Council Speaker Ahmed Fahmy to postpone the session to Saturday.
The government originally proposed the bill, which outlines the provisions for election to the lower house, the House of Representatives, but the council is letting Members of Parliament propose amendments before voting it into law.
One of the main points of controversy is what happens if MPs change their party affiliation or independent status after election.
Al-Nour Party MPs as well as secular parties like Wafd and Ghad Al-Thawra support the government bill that says independents who join a party, or partisan MPs who become independents, should lose their seats.
In a Saturday press conference FJP deputy leader Essam El-Erian said this provision is unconstitutional and in violation of at least five constitutional articles.
He added that dismissing MPs for switching affiliation would destroy parties from the inside.
El-Erian also answered questions regarding electoral districts, with opposition parties complaining that the districts were too big and contained too many voters, which favours more established parties.
El-Erian said that since the constitution’s transitional articles stipulated that two-thirds of each districts’ seats be allocated through closed party lists and a third through individual first past the post elections, with half of the candidates required to be either workers or farmers, the minimum number of seats for districts cannot be less than six.
However, the five border governorates of North and South Sinai, Matruh, New Valley and the Red Sea all have very low populations and if each has many districts, “we would have a House of Representatives with a 5,000 seats.”
According to El-Erian, the Shura Council will leave the districts as they were during the last elections and leave it to the Supreme Constitutional Court to decide future changes.
The Supreme Constitutional Court is required to review the law before it goes into effect and rule on its constitutionality. It is empowered to make whatever changes it deems necessary to keep it constitutional before President Mohamed Morsy signs it into law but may not rule it unconstitutional after it passes.
The Shura Council is yet to finalise other provisions of the elections law, such as whether to require parties to place female candidates high on their lists and if there should be a quota of seats reserved for Christian candidates.
Morsy is required to call for lower house elections before the end of February although the poll itself is expected to take place later this year.