While Egypt gets ready to welcome 80 countries and 23 regional and international organisations to its long awaited Economic Summit on 13-15 March, the road to the investment-raising event witnessed internal political manoeuvres.
According to the roadmap declared following the removal of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, parliamentary elections were supposed to take place before presidential elections. However, in January 2014, former interim president Adly Mansour announced an amendment in the order of elections, resulting in President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi being inaugurated in June.
Al-Sisi said after being elected that the upcoming parliamentary elections will take place before the end of March 2015.
Last October, politicians and parties were asked to submit to the cabinet their draft versions of the parliamentary law dividing the country into different constituencies in preparation for the elections. This came after politicians reacted angrily to the passing of the law organising parliamentary elections last June.
In December, 10 political parties agreed on postponing the upcoming parliamentary elections for up to two months to make room for amendments to the elections law to avoid unconstitutionality.
The parties’ representatives, including leader of the leftist Egyptian Popular Current Hamdeen Sabahy, head of Democratic Front Party Osama Al Ghazali Harb, leader of the Democratic Current Ahmed El-Boraie, and others agreed on accepting the postponement of the elections on the condition of amending the closed list system mentioned in the drafts. They believes the closed-list system was unconstitutional, and called for dividing the constituencies so that the number of seats represent the number of voters.
In December, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party’s (ESDP) high committee member Hossam Hassan told Daily News Egypt that parties agreed to postpone the elections only if the elections law is amended. The second condition was that the government “can still announce opening the door for nomination before the international donors’ conference in March”, which Egypt anticipates will attract foreign investment. Egypt also anticipates that completing its democratic transition process before the conference will encourage investments.
Haitham El Hariry, member of the Dostour Party’s high committee, said that he believes that the elections law is “arbitrary”, and going through with the elections without amending the current law is “a way of completing the formalist image of the 3 July 2013 roadmap”.
In January, the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) announced the schedule for the vote that will produce a parliament that will take over legislative responsibility from the presidency, after the latter being solely in charge of legislation since the power takeover in July 2013.
Elections were posed to start on 21 March, with results to be announced in May, as they were set to take place over two voting stages.
A Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruling on 1 March, however, ruled the electoral districts law unconstitutional, resulting in the postponement of parliamentary elections until the questioned law is amended.
The SCC received appeals against the districts law and two other laws: the law defining political rights issued ahead of the presidential elections last May, and the law organising the establishment of the parliament.
The laws were mainly contested on claims that they violated constitutional guarantees for equal and fair representation. These include the allocation of parliamentary seats to each electoral constituency, and the expenses allowed for electoral campaigns, which are set to a maximum of EGP 500,000.
While the court announced that Article 3 of the law is unconstitutional, it refused other appeals on the law defining political rights issued ahead of the presidential elections last May. It also refused appeals on the law organising the establishment of the parliament. Both laws were passed by former interim president Adly Mansour, who was previously and has resumed his role as head of the SCC.
The SEC announced following the court ruling that the elections will be postponed pending amendments to the districts law. The Administrative Court announced the annulment of previous elections procedures taken by the SEC, and the cabinet issued a decree to form the committee that will amend the electoral districts law that the SCC ruled unconstitutional.
Amendments to the law are set to feature changes in the districts and number of seats. However, the cabinet entrusted same names that drafted the law in the first place.
One day following the SCC’s ruling, head of the ESDP Mohamed Abou Al-Ghar wrote a commentary article for Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, in which he accused the state of intentionally seeking the postponement of the elections.
“The president and the state don’t want a parliament… and if they are compelled to, it should be worthless imaginary parliament,” Abou Al-Ghar said.
He added that in democracies, the parliament has the role of legislation and supervision over the executive power, but that dictatorships want sham parliaments that do not oversee or legislate and are there only to complete a formalist image.
The presidency responded promptly to the veteran politician’s article, saying: “[This] defies the truth and the proof to this is that the president issued instructions to the cabinet in order to hasten amending the electoral districts law in the wake of the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling.”
“The president designated a month for that to happen, which proves undoubtedly the presence of real will within the state and all its institutions to complete the roadmap,” the presidency added.
Leading member of the ESDP Hossam Mostafa told Daily News Egypt that his party and other parties presented several proposals for the electoral districts law in 2014, but the government discarded all the proposals and went through with a law, although “they knew it is unconstitutional.”
“The government wanted to set the schedule of the elections before the Economic Summit to present a persuasive image of democratic transition,” he said. “They needed to announce elections urgently but they also knew that the law is flawed. What was their point? Hard to tell.”