By Marwa Al-A’asar
CAIRO: Several political parties welcomed Tuesday the measures announced by the Supreme Electoral Commission concerning the next parliamentary polls, but demanded more steps.
On Monday, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) formed the Commission led by the head of the Cairo Appeals Court Abdel-Mo’ez Ibrahim.
A few hours later, Ibrahim said in a telephone interview with ON TV’s Baladna Bil Masry talk show that the polls will be held in the second part of November but that the electoral process as a whole will start on Sept. 18.
Earlier in March, SCAF had announced that parliamentary elections will be held in September but later in July, the polls were delayed to November.
“Postponing elections is totally in our favor as it gives us [new parties] time to organize and prepare for fielding candidates and setting electoral campaigns,” said Talaat Fahmy co-founder of the Popular Alliance Party, under construction.
However Fahmy, also former senior member of El-Tagammu socialist party, expressed some concerns.
“The first condition to guarantee the integrity of elections is to allow voters to use national ID cards only and cancel the system of voter lists abused by the former regime to control the polls,” Fahmy told Daily News Egypt.
“Taking such procedures will likely break up old alliances formed by the toppled regime,” he added.
According to Ibrahim, the voters’ lists will be revised based on national ID numbers and filtered from any suspicious data like names of the deceased and citizens not who are not allowed to vote.
“We [officially] called on courts and prosecution offices to inform us of the names of citizens who were handed down court sentences,” he said.
Ibrahim confirmed that the interior ministry will not interfere in the operations of the commission as was the case notoriously before the January uprising that toppled ex-president Hosni Mubarak.
“We have always been against police interference in elections. Yet who will secure polling stations, the armed forces or civilian popular committees?” Fahmy asked. “The security system in its current condition is unprepared to protect elections.”
Ibrahim said voters’ lists will no longer be on paper. Rather, the new lists will be part of an electronic database, organized alphabetically and according to national ID numbers.
“This is the first step towards real democracy,” he explained.
Vice-president of El-Wafd party Fouad Badrawy said the party has called for postponing elections due to the absence of security since the uprising.
“We called for other procedures including full judicial supervision of elections starting with the candidates’ and voters’ lists to the announcement of results with no police intrusion whatsoever,” Badrawy told DNE.
The commission will meet on Saturday to form a general secretariat of judges who will work on the polls.
Later next week, the commission judges will receive training on running the electoral process in cooperation with Cairo University’s faculty of political science. Other training sessions will be held at the National Judges’ Institute.
Moreover, the general secretariat will also set a ceiling for funding electoral campaigns.
“All these moves are quite positive, but still the timing of the elections is not suitable for parties, whether well-established or new ones to organize themselves,” President of El-Ghad Party Ayman Nour told DNE.
“We need to study the new elections laws first and look into the voters’ lists and the divisions of constituencies before any polls are held,” Nour, also a presidential hopeful, added. “The security situation in the country isn’t suitable for holding elections.”
The election date has been the subject of debate for months, with some political currents calling for polls to be postponed in order to give newly-established parties enough time to prepare.
Vice-president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) Rafiq Habib, also a Coptic researcher of Islamist movements, said that so far the party has no reservations about the above measures.
Several political groups have always feared the impact of Islamist groups, including Salafis and the well-organized and funded Brotherhood, on Egypt’s political scene.
However, senior researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Amr Hashim Rabie believes that holding elections at this time will help solve the escalating political situation in Egypt.
“Though I have always been for drafting a constitution before elections, I find holding the polls at this stage a step towards calming down the protesters on the streets … in order to keep them busy,” Rabie told DNE.
“The government needs to be monitored by a parliament not the street,” he added.
Mass protests and sit-ins had flared up Cairo’s iconic Tahrir square and other parts of the country since July 8, calling for multiple social and political demands.
Meanwhile, daily state-run Al-Akhbar said on Tuesday that the People’s Assembly and the Shoura Council laws, which regulate the elections and specify the electoral system, will be issued before the end of the week, quoting General Mamdouh Shahin, member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Shahin said the views of all political and national forces were reviewed before drafting the bills.
According to Ibrahim, the elections of both the People’s Assembly (the Lower-House) and the Shoura Council (the Upper-House) will be held simultaneously, each overlooked by different judges and allocated different ballot boxes.
On Feb. 13, SCAF suspended the constitution and the two houses of parliament, saying it would hand over the country to a civilian authority within six months. SCAF has been running the country since Feb. 11 after Mubarak stepped downed following an 18-day nationwide popular revolt.