By Omar Halawa
CAIRO: The regime’s stance towards Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary elections is questionable, as well as parties’ readiness to assume the powers stipulated by the 2014 constitution; the parliament’s jurisdiction is wider than that of the president.
“I believe the majority of parties are not ready for elections,” director of the National Center for Parliamentary Consultancy (NCPC) Ramy Mohsen told the Cairo Post.
“Last week, I attended a workshop organized by the Conservatives Party in the presence of more than 70 parties’ representatives to discuss the Cabinet‘s amendments to the electoral laws, and I discovered there are disagreements among the majority of participants,” he said.
Elections were scheduled to be held in March but a top court rules some articles in the elections laws unconstitutional. Legislators of the new law have not set a deadline to adopt a valid elections law, and Sisi said three weeks ago it would be “impossible” to hold the elections before late June.
Although they supposedly were ready for the elections before March, the majority of the country’s parties are still finalizing their electoral alliances. Thus far, three electoral alliances have been announced.
Regimes and parliament
Last week, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi met with Wafd Party leaders in order to resolve the ongoing conflict between Chairman el-Sayyed el-Badawy and some board members.
“The presidency believes that the political arena does not have the luxury of conflicts before the parliamentary elections,” presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef said in statement following the meeting.
NCPC’s Mohsen said “it would be rather hard to see a solid electoral alliance and I expect that many parties will run the elections solo, without allying with others. If alliances were settled they would face internal conflicts over representation and fielding candidates.”
“Thus, I think the only parties who have good chances in the elections are the Free Egyptians Party and the Salafi Nour Party, as they did not join any alliances,” Mohsen added.
Meanwhile, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi acts as a legislator in the light of the parliament’s absence.
“This scene comes in favor of Sisi’s regime, why? If things went as they stand, independent candidates would gain the majority of the seats and it would be much easier for the regime, particularly the presidency, to lobby with them, compared to parties. Sisi definitely needs the parliament’s majority endorsement to pass laws,” Mohsen explained.
The President must name a prime minster to form a government and introduce him to the parliament; in case the Prime Minister was not approved by the parliament’s majority within 30 days, the President shall appoint a Prime Minister nominated by the party or the coalition that has the majority or the highest number of Members of Parliament, according to Article 146 of the constitution.
Further, the majority of the parliament may withdraw confidence from the president and call for early elections. Former President Mohamed Morsi had declined the opposition’s demand for early elections before he was militarily ousted in 2013.
Conservatives party spokesperson Sameh Eid ruled out “easy lobbying” with the independent members of future parliament.
“This scenario happened in the 2000 and 2005 parliaments under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak. Most of the independent candidates were loyal to Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP,) as they used to coordinate with the regime well before running for the elections,” Eid told The Cairo Post.
Ministers who were Members of Parliament hired relatives of independent parliamentarians to guarantee their loyalty to Mubarak’s regime,” Eid told the Cairo Post.
“But nowadays, I think that is impossible,” he said.
In the 2000 parliamentary elections, the NDP occupied 310 parliament seats, including 166 who ran as independent candidates, then joined the NDP parliamentary bloc. In the 2005 elections, 170 out of 349 NDP parliamentarians were independents and joined the NDP bloc later on.
Not all Parties ready
However, also questioning the parliament’s capabilities, Eid anticipates the future parliament to be “weak.”
“Parties are not capable of forming alliances due to ideological differences. But we must have a parliament that can function and pass laws and assure foreign investors that this country is stable, so we agreed on the latest draft of the elections law stipulating that individual system seats are set at 448, while those of the list system are at 120,” Eid said.
“However, this division makes the party’s chances lower in comparing to the independent candidates” Eid added.
In the same context, the Free Egyptian Party spokesperson Shehab Wagiuh told the Cairo Post that having a parliament as soon as possible “is a must.”
“We are ready for it; in the 2012 parliamentary elections we fielded 208 candidates and we will field more this time. We are the most party ready for the elections because we did not join any electoral alliances,” he said.
Meanwhile, it seems that the process of finalizing a new elections law is facing hurdles.
In mid April, Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim Heneidy told reporters that “logistical issues” are holding back the committee drafting the law, as it received conflicting data on district profiles from different state authorities. The law had been ruled unconstitutional for “disproportionate division of districts.”
However, professor of constitutional law at Cairo University Rafaat Fouda told the Cairo Post the government is “wasting time.”
“Egypt has never had 100 percent accurate statistics; the former parliaments were elected based on approximate proportions. I think political calculations are in the scenes,” he said.
Egypt has not had a parliament since the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament was dissolved in June 2012.