CAIRO: Egyptians with foreign passports may now run for parliamentary elections after a 14-year ban, according to a Wednesday ruling. But the decision has raised controversy on possible manipulation and the identity of beneficiaries.
The Administrative Court banned dual citizens from running for legislative elections in 2001, but the Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that ban is “discriminatory,” in “prejudice to equal opportunities” and other principles laid out in the 2014 constitution.
“This ruling can have negative repercussions. Two groups are likely to exploit this ruling: the religiously-driven group, who are typically supportive of political Islam and the idea of ruling according to religion even more than their counterparts in Egypt; and the group seeking fame, influence and power, and those are looking only after their own interests,” Egyptian-American Ayman Fayed, who is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University, told The Cairo Post Sunday.
“Successful Egyptian immigrants are mostly quite busy and have their own lives and commitments abroad that are too difficult to leave behind in order to move back to Egypt, especially that conditions in Egypt are highly unpredictable,” he said.
Egyptians abroad amounted to eight million in 2014, according to the State Information Service, but Fayed downplayed representing Egyptian expats in the parliament.
“The religiously-driven and power-seeking groups are the ones that are more likely to be willing to take such risk, and this may create an imbalance in the parliament and bias the direction of the country towards specific agendas that do not have the best interest of Egypt and its people at heart.” Fayed added.
No figures are available on dual citizens already living in Egypt. Governor of Alexandria Hany al-Messeiry, an example of those, has been criticized in the media for holding the position while Egyptian-American.
The civil plaintiff who filed the lawsuit challenging the ban, Egyptian-American Michael Mounir, accused Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Heneidy on Facebook of inflicting losses on the state and parliamentary candidates when he set the ban “despite knowing it was unconstitutional.”
Mounir, founder of U.S. Copts Association and of Hayat Party in Egypt, told Youm7 Saturday the ban may have defamed Egypt’s image as a country that “discriminates against its people.”
Egyptians with foreign passports mostly obtained their second nationalities for “economic reasons and working abroad,” Mounir said.
Egyptian-American coordinator of April 6 America Sawsan Gharib disagrees with Mounir, and agrees with Fayed, albeit for different reasons.
“An American, for example, swears allegiance to the U.S. army and people. How could someone loyal to the U.S. be neutral towards Egypt? There would be conflict of interest,” Gharib told The Cairo Post Sunday.
The activist proposed a scenario where the president of the republic dies, and the speaker of the parliament, who constitutionally should be the interim president, is a dual citizen.
The president of Egypt should constitutionally only carry an Egyptian passport. That is perhaps why researcher of electoral systems at ACPSS Yosri al-Ezbawy expects the elections to be held by the end of 2015, as the new ruling “will lead to the reconsideration” of all codes governing elections, according to Youm7.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi requested the elections law be redrafted in no longer than a month; the probable extension of candidacy, however, will lead to an extended electoral campaign. The High Elections Committee has not set a date for the elections.
In Gharib’s viewpoint, Egyptians who hold another nationality may participate in Egyptian affairs from any position but a governmental or legislative one.
Egyptians at home
“Egyptians with a dual nationality running for the parliamentary elections do not pose any threats to the legislative arena. These fears and mistrust represent a hysterical state that has afflicted the authorities and the society recently,” deputy head of ACPSS Wahid Abdel Maguid told Youm7 Saturday.
He warned that “this state” leads to self sabotage and does not serve society, adding that the ruling corrects the mistake of depriving “Egyptian cadres” from participating in the development of the country from a parliamentary position for holding another passport.
However, political expert at ACPSS Amr Hesham Rabie told Youm7 some countries might push their nationals with Egyptian passports to run for elections, implying anti-Egypt agendas.
In the same vein, rapporteur of the Egyptian Front Coalition Yasser Qoura called for regulating the selection of dual citizens accepted to partake in the poll as candidates. Quora, whose coalition is running for the elections, voiced concerns to Youm7 that candidates carrying nationalities “hostile to Egypt” may run for the legislative positions.
Ezbawy, the electoral researcher, said such worries regarding dual citizens are “old fashioned,” and that countries no longer pursue “agents” in the traditional manner.
He added that Egypt uses foreigners and dual citizens in many fields to benefit from their expertise.
Egyptians with foreign passports are not allowed to serve in the military, which is compulsory for males.
Several politicians, including head of Modern Egypt Party Nabil Debes, cited the U.K. House of Commons and the U.S. Congress as examples of dual citizens in legislative positions.
Debes also told Youm7 it is important to represent Egyptian expats abroad, although the two states he mentioned do not have members of parliaments who represent their expat communities.