Elections 101: The basics of Egypt’s parliamentary race

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By Sarah Carr

CAIRO: Egypt’s 2010 People’s Assembly elections will be the first to be held after the controversial 2007 constitutional amendments, which lay down the criteria independent and political parties must fulfil in order to nominate a candidate for election to the presidency.

One of the conditions stipulates that independent candidates must secure the support of at least 250 members of the People’s Assembly and municipal councils, which makes this parliamentary race crucial for the 2011 presidential elections.

This year’s elections are the eighth since the adoption of the 1971 Constitution.

There are 508 seats up for grabs in the elections by Egypt’s 23 licensed political parties and independent candidates, of which 64 seats are reserved for female MPs in an attempt to increase female representation in parliament, pursuant to a law introduced last year.

Ten MPs are appointed by the president, five of which must be women and two Coptic Christians.

Prior to the introduction of the women’s quota, there were 222 constituencies — this has now increased to 254. Each constituency returns two MPs, at least one of whom must be drawn from the “workers” or “farmers” categories introduced in 1961 under Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

A decree issued this year gave the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions, agricultural cooperative associations and local administrative bodies the power to check documents to prove that a candidate is a worker or a farmer and therefore qualifies for election in this category.

According to the Egyptian Association for Community Participation, “the practice gives room for manipulation for the ruling candidates. One can find that businessmen, former police and officers and merchants are granted certification indicating their statuses as workers or farmers, while denying the opposition this right.”

In each constituency candidates who secure 50 percent of the vote plus one vote, win. However, where two non-worker/farmer candidates secure an absolute majority the candidate with the most votes is elected. There is then a run-off election between the two worker/farmer candidates who won most votes. The candidate who secures the most votes wins.

This year’s run-off elections are scheduled for Dec. 5.


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