A seven-member technical committee formed last October finalised on Tuesday a new draft law aimed at redrawing Egypt’s electoral constituencies. The law, the last obstacle in the way of Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary polls, is expected to be discussed by the cabinet in a plenary meeting Wednesday.
In a press conference late Tuesday, Ibrahim El-Heneidy, minister of transitional justice and House of Representatives affairs, said the new draft of the law includes significant revisions, most related to constituencies reserved for independent candidates.
According to El-Heneidy, there will be 231 constituencies reserved to competition among independent candidates. Depending on the number of registered voters within constituency boundaries, these will return between one or two to three representatives. All in all, these constituencies must return 420 independent MPs.
The House of Representatives law stipulates that Egypt’s new parliament be comprised of 567 seats – 120 for party-based candidates, 420 for independents and 27 for presidential appointees.
To put the above stipulation into effect, said El-Heneidy, the new proposals involve the creation of 77 constituencies that will return a single independent MP, 119 which will return two MPs and 35 to return three Mps, thus spreading the 420 independent MPs stipulated by the House of Representatives law across 231 constituencies.
El-Heneidy explained that the technical committee determined that a constituency returning one independent candidate must have no less than 131,000 registered candidates of the 54,800,000 registered voters. “As a result and in accordance with this number criterion,” said El-Heneidy, ”the country’s independent constituencies reached a total of 231.”
As for constituencies reserved for competition among party-based candidates, El-Heneidy said these will remain standing at 120 as prescribed by the first draft of the law. El-Heneidy said the 120 successful deputies drawn from party lists will battle it out in four constituencies, two of which will return 45 deputies each, and the remaining two 15 each.
In light of the above, El-Heneidy indicated that Cairo will come on top of governorates returning independent candidates. “Due to its big population density, Cairo will return 48 independent MPs, to be followed by Giza governorate, which will return 30 independent MPs,” said El-Heneidy.
Ali Abdel-Al, a member of the technical committee, also told parliamentary reporters that the committee did its best to ensure that the above division of independent and party list constituencies goes in line with article 102 of the new constitution. “This article stresses that the government observes equality when dividing constituencies in terms of striking a balance between the area and population of constituencies,” said Abdel-Al.
As a result, said Abdel-Al, the above division goes in line with the new constitution. “There are slight differences – not exceeding 0.6 percent – in number of registered voters per constituency and in the size of the area of each constituency, but these do not affect equality among them in any way,” said Abdel-Al.
Abdel-Al also indicated that in dividing constituencies, the committee mainly depended on statistics and figures provided the government-affiliated General Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics. “The division was made upon purely statistical grounds and by no means upon ideological, sectarian, personal or partisan interests,” said Abdel-Al.
Abdel-Al also argued that the adoption of a combination of individual and party list candidacy systems also goes in line with the new constitution. “Article 102 also states that we can adopt the individual candidacy system alone or the party list system, or make a combination of both, provided that in each case that there must a fair representation of population,” said Abdel-Al.
Abdel-Al also explained that the new draft allocated new separate constituencies for new housing communities like 6th of October city in Giza governorate, the Sadat city in Menoufia governorate and Borg Al-Arab in Alexandria governorate. The law also created separate constituencies for some border communities in south Egypt like Halayeb and Shalatin and Nubia and others in South Sinai.
Halayeb and Shalatin has been a matter of dispute between Egypt and Sudan, with each country insisting that it is part of its territory. The two communities were officially annexed by Egypt in 1994 despite objections from Sudan.
Abdel-Al also indicated that the new division of constituencies was completed after the committee reviewed the opinion of most political forces in a national dialogue. “Most of these parties voted for allocating the vast majority of seats (420 or 70 percent) to independents,” said Abdel-Al. Around a third of seats (120 or 25 percent) was reserved to party lists, while five per cent or 27 seats were allocated to presidential appointees.
Abdel-Al indicated that one of the main objectives of party lists is to ensure that marginal sectors like Copts, women, the handicapped, not to mention farmers and workers, are fairly represented.
Several political parties strongly objected to allocating just one third of seats to party lists, asking Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to intervene to raise the number of seats allocated to party-based candidates from 120 to 180.
El-Heneidy expected that the above amendments will be endorsed by the cabinet in its weekly plenary meeting on Wednesday.
“But if the cabinet decided to raise remarks over the new, the new draft would be referred back to the committee to tackle these remarks,” said El-Heneidy, adding that “if no remarks were raised, the new draft would be directly referred to the State Council’s department of legislation and fatwas to finally revise it in constitutional and legal terms and if everything goes okay, it will be sent to El-Sisi to finally ratify it.”
Heneidy said El-Sisi’s ratification of the new draft will give the green light to the Higher Election Committee (HEC) to set a date for registration in parliamentary elections.
Source : Ahram online