The parliament approved on Tuesday, in its general session, a draft law concerning a National Elections Commission (NEC), according to state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.
The approval followed reported conflicts between Members of Parliament (MPs) about Article 34 of the law, which stipulates the withdrawal of judicial supervision on elections in the year 2024.
Egypt’s constitution of 2014 stipulates the establishment of the commission, stating that “the commission shall have a permanent executive body. The law shall determine the composition and constitution of such executive body, and the rights, duties, and guarantees of its members in a way that achieves their neutrality, independence, and integrity”.
The draft law stipulates the establishment of the NEC as an independent body with technical, financial, and administrative independence, to monitor presidential, parliamentary, and local elections, and to organise all its related operations.
It also authorises the NEC to prepare the voters’ database, monitor referendums and elections, receive and review candidates’ applications, and draft the rules, procedures, and mechanisms for conducting the referendum.
The draft law builds up to an independent commission to monitor elections, which is something that Egypt needed for a long time, International Elections Adviser Osama Kamel told Daily News Egypt.
“Generally, the law has several good points; however, it is unclear to what extent would offices be available in all governorates or to what extent would the administrative commission be genuinely independent,” Kamel said.
Kamel also commented on the controversial Article 34, which stipulates ending judicial monitoring of elections after seven years, saying that it is already decided by the 2014 constitution.
Article 210 of the constitution states: “voting and counting of votes in referenda and elections shall be administered by members of the commission under the overall supervision of its board. It may seek the help of members of judicial organisations. The voting and counting of votes in elections and referenda, which take place during the 10 years following the effective date of this constitution shall be totally overseen by members of judicial bodies and organisations according to the law.”
Kamel explained that monitoring elections consumed a lot of time from judges, which resulted in less efficiency from other judicial services.
Furthermore, seven years to 2024 would be enough to train workers of the commission and to create trust by citizens in the independence of the commission, Kamel added.
On the other hand, member of parliament (MP) Haitham Al-Hariri filed a request for a revote on Article 34 of the draft law, he told Daily News Egypt that the number of MPs who voted for the article was a lot less than the required two-thirds majority.
Al-Hariri further questioned the accuracy of the voting procedure, as it was by raising hands, adding “nobody could tell whether the approval was with two-thirds majority or not”.
“We believe that as long as the current political atmosphere is not able to prove that it [election process] does not need judicial supervision then we cannot give up judicial supervision now,” Al-Hariri added, reflecting the stance of his coalition (25-30 Coalition).