Parliamentary elections law stirs controversy

While public attention is focused on the upcoming presidential elections, which are set to take place this month, debates over the parliamentary elections law are also heating up.

A committee assigned by the president to amend the parliamentary elections law is looking into features of the law that will regulate a new path of political alliances in the next period, and determine the fate of traditionally strong electoral players, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and certain associates of the Mubarak regime. Major defining features of the law include the candidacy system and the distribution of districts.

In a television interview with Al-Hayat channel, Mahmoud Fawzy, the spokesman of the Parliamentary Law Committee, said that a mixed system of electoral lists and individual candidates will most likely be applied.

Fawzy added that electoral lists will be open to both independent candidates and parties, and that one electoral list can include both independent and partisan candidates.

However, media reports indicate that the committee is leaning toward creating a mixed electoral system where the majority of seats will be allocated to individual candidates, while a 10 percent minority will be given to electoral lists. 

Ahmed Fawzy, the secretary general of the Social Democratic Party, told the privately owned Youm7 daily that such an arrangement threatens the future of political alliances and that an individual candidate system fuels conflicts between parties. 

Other critics of the individual candidate system say that it is unfavorable for parties established after the revolution, which have not had the chance to establish a widespread support base around their individual candidates, but who can garner support for electoral programs and ideas for reform. The system is thought to support traditional elections players who amass voting power from tribal affiliations, vote buying and established networks of support from older affiliations with the bygone Mubarak regime.  

In the 2011 parliamentary elections, a mixed system was also applied. Two thirds of parliament elected was through lists, while the remaining third was elected through individual candidates, resulting in an Islamist-dominated parliament. The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled in 2012 that the law governing the elections law was unconstitutional because of the mixed system, which allowed parties to compete over seats granted to individuals. The ruling eventually led to parliament dissolution.

The president will be able to appoint 5 percent of members of parliament, which has now been raised to 630 members. According to Fawzy, this makes for a more fair representation of different segments of society and lowers the potential for conflict.

On the issue of districts, Fawzy said that they will be determined according to a fair distribution of residents, so that a set number of residents will have one representative in parliament. The issue has been controversial in the past, as districts were deemed too large, resulting in fewer candidates.

The next house of representatives will have the critical function of granting and withdrawing confidence from the Cabinet, the prime minister or any of his ministers. 

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