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Shura Council debates new elections law amid objections - Daily News Egypt

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Shura Council debates new elections law amid objections

National Council for Women and Copts protest against unfair representation

Women vote during the second stage of parliamentary elections held in November 2011. (DNE/ Hassan Ibrahim)
Women vote during the second stage of parliamentary elections held in November 2011. (DNE/ Hassan Ibrahim)

The Shura Council’s legislative committee continued discussions Saturday on the draft elections law amid objections from the National Council for Women (NCW) and Coptic representatives.

Mohamed Mohy, member of the the Shura Council’s legislative committee, said the discussions focused on the electoral threshold; a clause that stipulates the minimum percentage of votes received by a party to win seats in the parliament.

“We have agreed that the party proportional list must receive a third of the valid votes for one seat,” Mohy said. He explained that if there is an electoral constituency of 400,000 votes competing for four seats (where every seat equates to 100,000 votes), a party gains a seat if it wins a third of the popular vote.

“One party has to get 33,000 or more out of the 100,000 votes to secure a parliamentary seat,” he said.

The legislative committee has also debated the issue of proportional lists and other procedural steps in elections, Mohy said.

On Sunday, the Shura Council, parliament’s upper house, will discuss the draft law. The draft law will then be transferred to the constitutional court on Monday for approval.

As members debated the draft law, some women and Copts were unsatisfied.

In a press statement, the NCW stated that the draft law “intended to abolish females in the upcoming elections and does not help in the representation of half of the Egyptian population.” The council also believes that the position of women in the elections’ law runs contrary to the goals of the January 25th Revolution.

“The draft law will set back Egypt’s position in comparison to other Arab countries who have better female representation in parliament,” the NCW said.

In the first week of January, the NCW submitted a proposal to the Shura Council requesting that the new parliament have a quota of 30 % female representation.

In the 2010 parliamentary elections, a female quote system was adopted where women were allocated 64 seats in the parliament.

Abeer Abul Ela, NCW media spokesperson, said the council has demanded females be placed on the top third of party proportional lists.

“If a woman candidate is not placed at the top of the list, the entire list should be considered void,” she said, explaining that the proposed law imitates the elections’ law in Algeria that paved the way for 145 females to secure parliamentary seats.

Naguib Gabriel, the head of the Egyptian Federation for Human Rights, said many Copts oppose the draft elections law because it denies women and Copts their right to a specific quota in parliament.

“We called for allocating 26 seats for Coptic parliamentarians and our request was rebuffed,” he said, adding that the draft law does not allow the application of a female quota system.

Mohy replied that the recently passed constitution does not state that women or Copts should be given a certain quota in parliament. “It is not in the constitution and was not debated in the legislative committee,” he said. The constitution was passed by a public referendum with a turnout of 32.9 %.

Gabriel, also a Coptic lawyer, added that another objection to the draft law stems from the Shura Council’s rejection of international supervision of elections. “We requested that an electoral committee would not exceed 500 voters and that international monitors would be present. All of this was rejected,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Salvation Front (NSF), Egypt’s largest opposition bloc, issued a press statement in which it listed a set of conditions for “transparent elections.”

Among the NSF’s demands for free elections, is complete judicial supervision over the entire electoral process. It also called for conducting elections on two subsequent days with no more than 750,000 votes cast one ballot box.

It asked that the vote count and announcing of results be held inside polling stations and in the presence of representatives of all political parties and civil society organisations. The NSF also called for banning the use of religious statements in electoral campaigns and setting a financial ceiling for campaigns.

On Tuesday, the council’s legislative committee agreed to amend the 1972 law on parliamentary elections and the 1956 law of political participation.  The committee debated these laws after they were transferred from the cabinet.

The new constitution granted the Shura Council all legislative powers until a new elected parliament is in place. Before the Shura Council was formed, President Morsy held legislative authority.  He appointed 90 Shura Council members and started its 33rd legislative session on 27 December 2012.

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