By Abdel-Rahman Hussein
CAIRO: The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has questioned the role of members of parliament and other government officials who are running in the People’s Assembly (PA) election in light of new regulations by the Ministry of Information regarding the television coverage granted to these representatives.
Minister of Information Anas El-Fiqqi released a press statement that indicated that a set of guidelines had been given to the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) to separate the coverage of government officials and ministers in their official capacity and as candidates in the elections for the PA.
Additionally, ERTU presenters running for parliament would be given mandatory leave for the duration of the campaign and may only appear in their capacity as candidates.
Head of the MB bloc in the PA Hussein Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt, “The constitution does not prohibit this but let’s be realistic, what do ministers in the PA actually do? They never differentiate between their two roles and always approach it from the government position.
“Additionally, ministers use the power of their office and the resources of the state to aid their campaigns, which begs the question … why [are these officials] running?”
While such scenarios would not be possible in countries like the US — where the separation of powers prevents someone in the government’s legislative branch from concurrently serving in the executive branch — such a scenario is indeed possible in other governments utilizing a parliamentary system, such as the UK.
Egypt is like the UK in that respect. But unlike the UK, a member of the Shoura Council can also be a member of the PA, while in the UK one cannot be a member of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
Ibrahim cited the case of Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils Mufid Shehab, who is a member of the Shoura Council and will run in the PA elections slated for Nov. 28.
The run-up to the November elections has been characterized by the usual crackdown on the banned MB — whose members run as independents — with 70 members arrested in Alexandria last week. Guidelines for the campaign have stated that religious slogans are banned from the campaigning, which puts the group’s “Islam is the solution” slogan in jeopardy.
But Ibrahim pointed out that the eligibility of the slogan needed to be decided upon by a constitutional court before banning it, and that candidates for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) were also using religious literature on their campaign posters.
“Twenty-six of our members are currently in jail because of the elections and this is a bad start for any election,” Ibrahim said. “The NDP candidates’ posters use religious slogans, with Quranic verses on their campaign posters.”
Following a previous statement, El-Fiqqi again called on “all media, public and private, to respect the Supreme Electoral Commission-certified Uniform Standards and Rules for Media Coverage of the 2010 PA Election. These standards are meant to ensure fair access and neutral coverage of the election.
“A media monitoring committee, composed of representatives of private and public media, political parties and Egyptian civil society organizations will publish regular reports on the performance of broadcast media.”