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Controversy arises between supporters, opponents of Egypt’s parliamentary elections law

The Egyptian House of Representatives election law has sparked controversy between participants in the national dialogue sessions, CNN Arabic reported.

Participants were divided in two groups, with the first supporting the absolute closed list – currently applied – by justifying it because it fulfills constitutional obligations by ensuring the representation of the groups specified in the constitution, while the second group opposes it.

The most prominent supporters of this system were most of the political parties currently represented in parliament, namely the Mostaqbal Watan Party (Nation’s Future Party), Homat Watan (Protectors of the Homeland), the Republican People’s Party, and the Congress Party.

On the other hand, the opposing group believes that the proportional list system guarantees a fair expression of the will of the voters, and the representation of all political parties.

The application of the proportional list election system was supported by the parties of the Tagamu Party, the National Accord Party, Reform and Development Party, Nour Party, and Adl Party.

These parties submitted a proposal to apply the proportional list system to ensure the representation of the groups specified in the constitution.

National dialogue begins

The first session of the national dialogue began on Sunday, discussing a range of political issues.

Three consecutive sessions were held for the committees for exercising political rights and parliamentary representation, human rights and public freedoms, trade unions and civil society organizations.

The first session dealt with the electoral law for the House of Representatives.

The second session discussed the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and the third discussed the challenge of cooperatives and the role of cooperative societies in achieving the goals of sustainable development.

Discussing the electoral law for the House of Representatives was one of the important demands of the political parties, aiming to creating a political environment and the general climate for a representative oversight council that can control the performance of the executive authority and hold it accountable for its actions, Abdel Nasser Qandil, Assistant Secretary General of the Tagammu Party – one of the leftist political parties in Egypt – said.

Qandil added that this step will be reflected on all Egyptian state institutions, as well as on all files, whether economic or social, and therefore the session witnessed a lot of momentum, with many symbols and leaders of political parties attending it.

All political parties are participating in the national dialogue, which Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for two years ago. It is managed by a board of trustees headed by the head of the Information Service Diaa Rashwan.

The board has 19 members representing various movements.

Qandil confirmed, in exclusive statements to CNN Arabic, that the first session of the national dialogue did not witness attempts to impose restrictions during the discussions or discrimination in presenting visions and ideas, which conveyed a state of satisfaction and reassurance to the participants.

He added that the participants put forward multiple proposals for the House of Representatives electoral law, including the absolute closed list or single list or a combination of more than one system, such as an absolute and relative closed list.

Article III of the Egyptian Parliament Law states that the House of Representatives elections will be on 284 seats using the single-system, and 284 seats using the absolute closed list system.

Political parties and independents are entitled to run on each of the two types of seats.

Qandil stated that the Tagammu Party submitted an integrated proposal to hold parliamentary elections with an open proportional list system (unconditional) that deals with Egypt as a single electoral district.

This system is able to meet the constitutional proportions stipulated for some groups, he said. The absolute closed list system allows voters to choose between the different lists competing in the elections.

The list receiving the largest votes wins the election.

The proportional list allows the voter to choose various candidates from the competing list, and the seats are distributed according to the order of the votes received by the candidates.

Qandil explained that the Tagammu party’s proposal included an integrated vision of how to apply the proportional system in the parliamentary elections, including statistical and numerical tables, and also included a complete simulation model of how the proportional distribution of seats in one constituency would enhance the status of the categories stipulated in the constitution.

The Tagammu Party rejected the multiple proportional list system because its representation is difficult to apply in light of the different population distribution in Egypt, which may threaten the unconstitutionality of the elections later, Qandil said.

Articles 243 and 244 of the Egyptian Constitution stipulate that workers, the poor, youth, Christians, people with disabilities, and Egyptian expatriates must be adequately represented in the House of Representatives, while Article 102 stipulates that at least a quarter of the total number of 450 members of the House of Representatives should be allocated to women.

‘Does not suit Egypt’s situation’

According to Qandil, Tagammu Party refused the proposal to use the single seat electoral system in the House of Representatives elections, saying it did not suit the situation in Egypt.

Qandil gave an example of former US President Donald Trump, who won a poor voter turnout when he ran for the presidential elections away from one of the two main parties, but the second time when he ran for one of the two parties he was able to become president of the US.

Article 102 of the Egyptian Constitution stipulates that the election law is responsible for setting the conditions for nomination, the electoral system, and the division of electoral districts.

Qandil criticized the absolute closed-list electoral system for two reasons – the first is due to it excluding many candidates because the winning list is the one that receives the highest number of votes, even if by a small difference, which leads to social dissatisfaction with the election results, and does not create competition between the candidates.

Qandil linked the second reason to incompetence, explaining that the absolute closed-list electoral system allows candidates who have no experience in parliamentary work to win, which caused the current parliament to become the weakest in terms of performance.

The Nation’s Future Party holds the majority of the seats allocated to the closed-list system in the current parliament, with a total of 145 seats, followed by the Republican People’s Party with 28 seats.

Independent Members hold 22 seats, the Wafd Party 21 seats, and the Protectors of the Homeland Party 19 seats.

Many electoral systems are applied around the world, and each system has its pros and cons, the chairman of the parliamentary committee of the Republican People’s Party in the House of Representatives Mohamed Salah Abu Hamila said.

Abu Hamila told CNN Arabic that the Republican People’s Party supported the application of the absolute closed list, which is applied in the current parliament by 50 percent, in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

This system guarantees the representation of the excluded groups, as stipulated in the Egyptian constitution, and allows the selection of members of parliament who have political and economic expertise in various fields, which facilitates the selection of qualified members in the specialized committees of the parliament, and strengthens the oversight and legislative role of the parliament, he explained.

Abu Hamila stated that the absolute closed list allows the representation of parties that do not have a popular base, which strengthens its role in the future, citing the presence of members of 13 political parties in the current parliament, most of which are unknown to citizens.

And he confirmed that the Republican People’s Party proposed during the national dialogue sessions allocating 50 percent of seats for independent candidates, which is important in communicating the problems and proposals of citizens to parliament through independent MPs.

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