Egypt’s Cabinet To Discuss A New Draft Law On Parliamentary Constituencies

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