Despite the objections made by many politicians and parliamentarians, the Egyptian parliament finally approved a bill to amend and redistribute electoral provinces in preparation for the House of Representatives elections expected to be held next October.
The House of Representatives will be elected by (284) seats in the individual system, and (284) positions in the system of full closed lists, and parties and independents are entitled to run in each of them. Representatives and politicians have indicated that the new electoral district law contradicts the provisions of the constitution, due to the reduction in the number of representatives running for individual seats and its failure to take into account the population census in each district. The objections also focused on rejecting the full closed-list system as establishing the idea of the hegemony of one party. The law also expanded the geographical scope of each electoral district, which is considered in the interest of the representatives of the Egypt Support Coalition led by the Nation’s Future Party.
Division of electoral districts
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had ratified Law No. 140 of the year 2020 amending some provisions of Law No. 140 of 2020 changing some rules of the law Regulating the Exercise of Political Rights No. 45 of 2014, Law of Parliament No. 46 of 2014, and Law No. 198 of 2017 regarding the National Authority for the elections.
The law requires that the House of Representatives be made up of 568 members elected by direct, secret, general vote, provided that women are allocated at least 25 per cent of the total number of seats, and the president may appoint some members in the House of Representatives not exceeding five per cent. For his part, MP Haitham Hariri said that the electoral district law submitted by the Coalition to Support Egypt to Parliament is unconstitutional. In a press statement, the deputy explained that the number of voters in the Alexandria governorate for each seat is about 255,000 votes. He pointed out that there is a significant discrepancy in voters’ figures in some districts with more than 200,000 voters.
Hariri added that those with political money are the most capable of running such elections in large electoral districts. He believed that the real problem is that when they obtain membership in the prosecution councils, the owners of political money defend their interests at the expense of the rest of society’s benefits.
The same opinion was mentioned by Osama al-Badrashini, one of the possible independent candidates in Alexandria, who said that the chances of independents are feeble in the upcoming parliamentary elections due to the expansion of the constituency areas after the merging of a large number of them. He pointed out in a press statement that merging the constituencies required vast sums of money to cover the propaganda in the expanding constituency, even if the candidate had popularity, because this popularity was limited to one constituency.
Meanwhile, Medhat al-Zahid, head of the Popular Alliance Party, warned that “expanding the area of individual constituencies will benefit the owners of capital and those with the ability to spend increasing on electoral advertising.” Thus, the absolute list system has combined all electoral systems’ defects and stamped out competition.
Al-Zahid stressed that the law should have taken into account the standards set by the Supreme Constitutional Court concerning the criteria for geographical expansion, population homogeneity, and fairness in the representation of representatives concerning the population. He pointed out that there are no conditions for competitiveness in the parliamentary elections, which are the conditions that mean the opening of the public space and the abstention of state agencies from interfering in the electoral process. Al-Zahid stressed the necessity of the existence of platforms that monitor the electoral process, which must be considered in light of the presence of closed and blocked press websites, as well as one of its conditions for opening national media platforms to everyone.
Boycott and unconstitutionality
Zuhdi al-Shami, the vice president of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, wrote in his 2015 blog many objections to the law before it was promulgated, stressing its unconstitutionality. Al-Shami said, “For example, in al-Basateen in Cairo, every 240,000 voters choose a deputy, while in al-Jamalia, only 77,000 voters choose a deputy.” He added, “Several circles counted in this manner, such as Helwan and Ain Shams in Cairo, Burj al-Arab and Montazah in Alexandria, Qalioub and Toukh in Qalyubia, and many others.”
The objections to the law’s violation of the constitution come in light of the announcement by many parties and political forces that they are boycotting the elections. Last March, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party called for releasing all prisoners of conscience before the elections, as well as the launch of blocked websites and freedom of information circulation, and the freezing of the state of emergency during the polls.