CAIRO: The amendments to the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council laws, announced on Wednesday are “complicated and difficult for any ordinary Egyptian to comprehend and implement,” a professor of electoral systems said.
The amendments, announced by the ruling military council, combine the closed party lists and individual candidates’ formats, with 50 percent allocated to each of them in each governorate.
“This decision is constitutional and provides equal opportunity for all, however it lacks simplicity and could lead to confusion among the voters,” Professor of electoral systems in Cairo University, Mazen Hassan, told Daily News Egypt on Thursday.
The fact that the PA and Shoura elections will be held on the same day further complicates the process, in addition to the distribution of the electoral constituencies, he said.
For the People’s Assemble (lower house) elections, the nation will be divided into 184 constituencies, 126 of which will be designated for the individual candidates system. Two candidates will be elected in each constituency, where at least one must be a worker or farmer. The remaining 58 constituencies will be reserved for closed party lists.
In the Shoura Council (Upper House) elections, the nation will be divided into 93 electoral constituencies, 65 of which are reserved for the individual candidates system, while 28 will follow the closed party lists system.
The law determining the electoral constituencies will be announced in two weeks.
Army council General Mamdouh Shahin responded to criticism in a press conference on Wednesday said that some of the constituencies designated for the individual candidates system in the PA would overlap with the constituencies designated for the same purpose in the Shoura Council.
“However having the PA and Shoura elections on the same day will help us provide the same amount of security for both,” Shahin said adding that it would save expenses during this critical economic period.
“It is the best option we have under the current circumstances,” he said.
The elections will take place over three stages, each for a region in the country, to allow for judicial supervision on all stations.
During the PA and Shoura Council elections, eligible voters will vote twice on two different ballots, once for a list and a second time for an individual candidate.
Shahin said that each voting station would include a committee for electing PA candidates and another for electing candidates for the Shoura Council.
“This will cause a great deal of confusion among voters and will lead to the increase in the number of invalid votes,” Hazem said.
He said that the turnout for the Shoura elections will be a lot less than the PA. People would first have to stand in long queues and go through the process of voting for both the list and the individual candidates in the PA elections committee, he explained.
“After that they might not have any strength or patience to go through the same process again for the Shoura elections committee,” Hazem continued, “Or they might even believe that they have completed the voting process.”
The amendments were also criticized by many political powers, who accused the army of ignoring their demands and unilaterally issuing these amendments that would set the tone for Egypt’s political future.
“After having several talks and discussions with SCAF regarding the amendments, they did what they wanted in the end,” Rifaat Al-Saeid, head of the leftist Tagammu Party, told DNE, sarcastically noting the “democracy” employed in preparing the law.
Political powers demanded that at least two thirds of the PA be elected through closed party lists, to prevent remnants of the former regime from running as independent candidates.
“We want to prevent remnants of the former regime from using their financial power and bribing their way through the PA as independents,” Karima Al-Hifnawy, member of the National Association for Change and the Kefaya opposition movement, said.
Shahin described these demands as “unconstitutional” during the press conference.
“If we presume that the number of people that the political parties represent is 10 million, then the rest should be represented by individual candidates to provide equal opportunities for all,” he explained.
Al-Saeid disagreed. “Many democratic European countries’ electoral systems are dominated by the closed party list.”
Al-Saeid also criticized SCAF for canceling the women’s 64 seat quota which was implemented in the 2010 PA elections, without guaranteeing the rights of women or Copts to be represented in the PA.
“There is no place for a woman or a Copt in this upcoming parliament,” he said.
The amendments replace the women’s quota with a stipulation that each party must nominate at least one female candidate on its list.
However, Shahin said that each party has the freedom to decide where to allocate the name of the female candidate, on top, middle or at the end of the list.
“It’s unlikely that one party could win 100 percent of the seats,” Hazem explained. “This means that if a female candidate is allocated at the end of the list by her party, she probably won’t reach the PA.”
Many political powers also lashed out at SCAF for maintaining the president’s right to appoint 10 members of the PA and one third of the Shoura Council.
“How can members of the People’s Assembly, which is supposed to represent the people, be appointed by the president?” member of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution Abdel-Rahman Samir asked.
The People’s Assembly will include 504 elected candidates, in addition to 10 candidates assigned by the head of SCAF as the acting president, while one third of the Shoura Council’s 390 seats, will remain empty until the new president is elected. The new president will then exercise his right to appoint one third of the Council.
Shahin said that this percentage allows the president to create balance in the parliament by appointing cultural, religious and intellectual figures.
The SCAF’s rejection of international monitoring of elections was also heavily criticized.
“We want to show the world that we will succeed in having fair elections that represent the will of the people,” Samir said.
National sovereignty was the reason the SCAF gave for limiting the monitoring to local groups. “Egypt doesn’t accept guardianship from any country,” Shahin said on Wednesday.
Local civil society organizations will be allowed to submit applications to the Supreme Electoral Commission to monitor the elections, the army general added.
“It’s like we’re walking in the same footsteps of the former regime which linked international monitoring to the state’s sovereignty to continue forging the elections,” Samir added.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood said they still haven’t decided their position towards the amendments.
“We are studying the matter and we will issue a statement including the legal and political aspects of the amendments on Saturday,” said Rashad Bayoumi, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.