Weak gov’t transparency leaves many parliamentary elections questions
Egyptian Parliament - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: Politicians are stuck between preparation and debate, as they continue to wait for the High Parliamentary Elections Committee (HPEC) to set the date for promised parliamentary elections amid a lack of information and transparency from the government.

HPEC is waiting for the government to issue a law organizing the division of constituencies, which is being delayed amid speculation that security concerns could be holding back the elections. In the meantime, Medhat Idris, the official spokesman for HPEC, stated that the committee is working on the voter database, Al-Ahram reported Monday.

Regarding the timing of the elections, the State is supposed to commit to the 2013 Roadmap announced last July, which had defined three major steps to be accomplished in the government’s promised democratic transition following the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.

A new constitution was passed in January, the president was elected in May, and parliamentary elections are expected to start before the end of the year. President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi at least promised as much to a U.S. congressional delegation that visited Cairo on Aug. 27. But the government has already previously changed plans, by conducting the presidential elections before the parliamentary elections, and thus amending the order that initially came in the roadmap.

Confused by the government, politicians are eager to think parliamentary elections will not be held before next year, to which the government has responded unclearly. Hossam Qawsh, the Cabinet spokesman, said in press statements Thursday that news about pushing elections that far were not true because “the government has not even discussed that.”

While the roadmap did not set a specific timeframe for parliamentary elections, former interim President Adly Mansour issued a decree in January stating that elections should be held 90 days from the day that the 2014 Constitution was passed, which was Jan. 19.

Abdul Ghaffar Shukr, head of the Popular Alliance Party, told The Cairo Post Monday that state security bodies are worried about holding elections in the current unstable situation. Shukr said also that because political campaigns are usually accompanied by disputes and unrest, this could pose a problem, especially in rural areas.

“I am in favor of speeding up the electoral process because I believe it is in the best interests of the people, and to Egypt in the eyes of foreign states, but the Ministry of Interior fears more street fights,” Shukr said.

Until recently, a reasonable explanation of the delay in the constituencies law was that the government was redrawing the borders of some governorates in Egypt. However, that was completed on Aug. 30 when the Ministry of Local Development announced the redrawing of 10 governorates’ borders.

Despite the fact his statements came earlier, political science professor Wahid Abdul Magid had told Sada al-Balad that there is a lack of transparency from the State in explaining the elections delay.

Among many political forces urging parliamentary elections, women activists are mostly concerned with the lack of organization and control over legal and executive authorities, which would later fall under the Parliament’s responsibilities.

Azza Suileman, head of the Center for Egyptian Women, has argued that the absence of the Parliament only empowers the president, and hurts law enforcement. “Delaying the elections will result in destroying the rule of law,” Suleiman told Al-Shorouq Sunday.

On the other hand, as time allows it, political powers continue to join forces in preparation for the elections. This is in addition to deciding on candidates likely to run for the elections despite the fact that any future constituencies law could alter the parties’ choices for nominees.

Three major groups have more or less established themselves on the political scene to run for parliamentary elections: The Egyptian Coalition Front, Al-Wafd coalition and the Democratic Civil Alliance. Ongoing discussions across the three unions could seek further merging.

Islamists are represented in the strong presence of the Salafist Nour Party, which seems well organized in comparison to competitors. Besides being extremely active on the streets, more obviously than other Islamist parties, it has already begun coordinating with local and civil centers to establish a primary list of potential candidates. This at least is according to Salah Abdel Maaboud, a member of the party’s High Committee, in comments to The Cairo Post Monday.

“The government tends to justify the delay of the elections by the non-readiness of political parties, but the party opposes the postponement,” Abdel Maaboud added.

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