People’s Assembly law amendments stir debate

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CAIRO: Political analyst Amr Hashim Rabie said Tuesday the People’s Assembly (PA) Law 38 has been amended 14 times since first drafted in 1972, objecting to the latest draft of proposed amendments by the ruling army council released for public discussion.

“A new law should have been drafted from scratch to replace this outdated one, not amended for the 15th time,” Rabie, a senior researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Daily News Egypt.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Sunday issued the draft law suggesting an electoral system of proportional representation which is a combination of the closed party lists and individual candidates system. A total of 10 articles were amended and three others were added to the 39-year-old law.

If approved, the amended law would be applied in the elections of the PA – the lower house of the parliament – slated for September this year.

Some political parties and groups were quick to voice disapproval.

Head of the Democratic Front Party Osama El-Ghazaly Harb said on the sidelines of a press conference Tuesday that the SCAF has not officially addressed the political parties to offer feedback on the law.

Harb expressed reservations about the PA being mostly elected via the individual candidates system, saying that the majority of political forces preferred the closed party lists.

Based on the draft law, one third of the seats in each governorate will be elected through party lists while the rest will follow an individual absolute majority vote through a two-round system.

The law allows lists which can be formed by one or more parties or by groups of individuals.

“The [main] job of the armed forces is to safeguard the nation. But if they wish to [play a political role], they must be liable to monitoring and accountability,” Harb said.

“We object to laws being issued [away from] the people,” he added.

El-Tagammu party rejected most of the articles of the draft law as well.

The law, according to a statement released also Tuesday, still contains some bright spots. It suggested that the interior and justice ministers which previously oversaw elections, are to be replaced by a supreme electoral committee, local committees in each governorate and the supreme judicial council.

“This means that the electoral process will be run by independent entities instead of the executive authority,” the statement read.

The interior ministry used to supervise the elections during the era of ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Political groups and candidates have always accused the authorities of vote-rigging in favor of the then ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

Local and international rights groups detected rampant violations during the past elections, none of which was seriously considered by the government or the regime.

The draft law further recommended that each list wins a number of seats in accordance with the proportion of the votes it secures out of the total number of valid votes. The rest of the seats are distributed across other lists based on the votes they secure.

During the PA elections, eligible voters will vote twice on two different ballots, once for a list and a second time for an individual candidate.

The Cassation Court will probe seats whose legitimacy is contested and legal challenges must be presented within 30 days of the announcement of results. Rulings are to be issued within 90 days.

Like the Democratic Front Party, El-Tagammu objected to the election of two thirds of the PA through the individual system, accusing the SCAF of allowing not allowing equal opportunities.

“Those refusing the law should first understand that if lists are applied on both sides [since individual candidates will also be allowed to form lists], individual candidates will gain more votes as their number surpasses those of political parties,” Rabie argued.

“To put it simply, any group of people can gather and form a list to compete with parties,” he added.

Rabie further said that the best scenario to guarantee equal opportunity for all is to apply the two systems evenly, allocating 50 percent of the seats to each system.

National Association for Change (NAC) member George Ishaq also said that his group rejects the law.

“We call for amending the constitution first … [and] drafting a law that allows [newly established and] small political parties to be represented in the PA,” Ishaq told DNE.

The draft law also retained the 50 percent quota for workers and peasants.

El-Tagammu argues that this article in the law has always been manipulated, which enabled individuals who are neither farmers not workers to join the PA under this umbrella.

Meanwhile, member of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution Abdel-Rahman Samir told DNE that the group has not yet decided on its stance towards the modified law.

Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group has not yet officially responded to the amended law.

“There is currently a legal committee studying the law. In general, we welcome the fact that it is open to public debate,” official MB spokesman Essam El-Erian told DNE.

Even though the constitutional decree announced by the SCAF on March 30 dictated the law was to specify the number of constituencies in the country, the draft law made no mentioned of that.

The law also failed to define the number of MPs and the minimum number of votes required for a party to be represented in the PA. –Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan.



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