By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: The People’s Assembly gave its initial approval of amendments to Articles 30 and 38 of the presidential elections law, to guarantee the transparency and integrity of the elections and its results.
The amendments will be referred to the Supreme Constitutional Court to decide whether they are constitutional or not within 15 days.
“The court can either reject the law or approve it depending on whether it finds it in line with the constitutional decree [issued last year] or not,” lawyer and professor of constitutional law in Cairo University Raafat Fouda told Daily News Egypt.
A paragraph was added to Article 30 giving the electoral subcommittees the jurisdiction to count votes and announce the results, with details of the valid votes each candidate garnered in each committee, in the presence of the candidates’ representatives, civil society organizations monitoring the elections and media. Unlike the PA elections, the count wouldn’t be held in central committees, which required moving the ballot boxes from polling stations.
Some MPs argued that “civil society organizations” should be changed into “rights organizations,” and the term “authorized” should be added to both media and rights organizations allowed to monitor the process.
However the majority of MPs gave a show of hands rejecting the idea of imposing restrictions on media and civil society organizations monitoring the elections and documenting the results.
They also added that “civil society organizations” was a broader term that included more organizations to make up for the lack of candidates’ representatives in the subcommittees.
“It would be difficult for the candidates’ representatives to monitor the elections in all the subcommittees around Egypt’s (27 governorates),” said MP Mahmoud El-Khodairy, head of the legislative committee.
Amendments on Article 38 stipulated that electoral general committees would be responsible for counting the total number of valid votes received by each candidate in the subcommittees. The general committees would then announce the results in the presence of candidates’ representatives, civil society organizations monitoring the elections and media and then deliver them to the Supreme Presidential Election Committee.
Some MPs wanted to change clauses pertaining to immunity guaranteed to the supervising committee’s decisions against court appeal, deeming the amendments on articles 30 and 38 useless.
Two members of the PA’s legislative committee had walked out of a meeting last week in objection to the reluctance to change that particular clause, which was also part of the constitutional decree.
Article 28 of the military issued constitutional decree gives the Supreme Presidential Election Committee complete jurisdiction to handle the election process, including the vote counting process and announcing the results.
“This is a bid by the PA to strip the Supreme Committee of some of its responsibilities and distribute it on the subcommittees and general committees, but this against article 28 in the constitutional decree,” Fouda said.
Anas Gaafar, deputy dean of the faculty of law at Cairo University, previously told DNE that the PA had no authority to amend the constitutional decree.
“However, the court might find some middle ground and deem the amendments constitutional; it depends on the judge and what he deems fit,” Fouda stressed.
Hussein Ibrahim, head of the Freedom and Justice Party’s (FJP) parliamentary bloc, said that any amendment on Article 28 would require a referendum as it was part of the constitutional decree.
MP Wahid Abdel Meguid said that amendments proposed Monday would reduce the negative aspects of the law and the appeals filed against the elections’ results.
“We don’t have enough time to make drastic amendments to the presidential elections law,” he said.
SCAF had issued the amended presidential elections law on Jan. 19, days before the PA convened for the first time on Jan. 23. MPs were outraged and demanded to review the law.