Representatives of 15 political parties met with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb on Tuesday for a second session to discuss amendments to the parliamentary laws.
During the meeting, Mehleb said that the government “does not have any particular affiliations,” and that all it wants is “to continue following the steps of the political roadmap, form a parliament that truly represents the Egyptian people, and protect the integrity of the elections,” privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported.
Mehleb added that while the country has a president and a government with a vision, “all that is left is a parliament to combine will with vision, to begin building a modern state.”
The main disagreement between the participants was over the number of electoral lists. According to state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, 11 parties agreed upon dividing party lists into eight instead of four lists, with 15 candidates in each one. Others were reluctant, insisting on not amending the electoral program “for fear of delaying the entire electoral process.” A decision was not reached and another meeting was scheduled for Thursday.
Not all parties participated in the discussion. Head of the Karama Party, Mohamed Samy, announced earlier that his party would boycott Tuesday’s meeting because they only received the invitation a few hours prior to the start of the event. He was quoted by Al-Shorouk as saying, “This indicates the government’s underestimation of the importance of my party.”
“Our presence would not have been effective either, so long as the government doesn’t care about studying parties’ suggestions regarding the electoral laws,” Samy added.
According to him, this disregard was evident in statements issued by officials of the amendments committee, which maintained that no new amendments shall be incorporated aside from those mandated by the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling.
Other parties, including the Socialist Popular Alliance, Dostour and Justice parties were in attendance. Spokesperson for the Dostour Party Khaled Daoud said that while they had reservations regarding the delayed invitation to the meeting, they attended the discussion “to avoid accusations that the party is boycotting the political process.”
Daoud added that his party’s contribution to the discussion would not be limited to suggesting amendments to the electoral process, but that they will also seize the opportunity to “address the current political situation and the party’s objections to the management of the transitional period, including how it’s been dealing with the issues of freedoms and the revolutionary youth.”
Moreover, the Democratic Current Party expressed discontent with what they described as “the government’s discrimination in the treatment of parties based on whether they support or oppose state policies,” Shorouk reported.
The issue of possible Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi presence in the upcoming parliament was another concern raised by Justice Party head Mahmoud Farghal, leading to an argument with members of the Salafi Nour Party in presence.
On Monday, Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Heneidy, who is also heading the amendment committee, told privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that the elections were not being purposely delayed and that his committee had been working hard to assure the elections were on track after the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) declared the previous election laws unconstitutional.
The SCC had ruled the Constituency Division Law unconstitutional on the basis that Article 3 of the law violates Article 102 of the Constitution, which ensures the fair representation of voters across all constituencies and governorates.
Following the ruling, the Administrative Court ruled that parliamentary elections be delayed until the Constituency Division Law is amended.
Heneidy addressed concerns regarding over 200 laws issued during the transitional period before the election of a new parliament. He clarified that the aforementioned laws shall be considered within the first fifteen days of the newly elected parliament.
The controversial Protest Law would be one of the subjects under discussion, according to Heneidy. “The new parliament will consider suggestions from the National Council on Human Rights, including one to make the sentences for violating the Protest Law less harsh,” he added.
Following former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in 2013, a key part of the military-authored roadmap for Egypt and the 2014 Constitution stipulated the presence of an elected parliament within six months of voting on the Constitution.
However, the transitional government found a loophole by forming the Supreme Elections Committee days before the Constitution’s deadline.
Egypt has not had a parliament since 2012 when the SCC ruled that a third of the Islamist-dominated Parliament had been illegally elected and overturned the entire body.