Q&A: Key Information on Egypt’s Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

After much speculation, Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary elections are reportedly slated for September of this year. The election will allow for the formation of the first parliament under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and the second since the 2011 ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak.  

Egypt has been without a parliament since June of 2012, when the Muslim Brotherhood dominated parliament was dissolved by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). In the absence of a parliament, the president holds all legislative powers, and since his election, Sisi has issued and amended over one hundred laws.

When Will Elections be Held?

Elections are expected to be held in September 2015, according to Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliament Affairs Ibrahim al-Heneidy. Prior to this date, elections were set for March. However, the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled the parliamentary constituencies law unconstitutional, postponing elections indefinitely.  A timetable for elections was expected to be announced following the opening of the Suez Canal, but has yet to be revealed.

As part of the preparation process, a permanent committee also created by the High Electoral Commission (HEC) to keep track of voter data. An additional committee was formed to monitor media coverage of the upcoming elections.

The HEC, which is in charge of preparing and supervising the parliamentary elections, has been unofficially preparing parliamentary elections since July 15, however, the committee was officially announced upon the issuance of a presidential decree on August 13.

The committee is made up of seven members; two deputies from the Court of Cassation, two deputies from the State Council and two heads from the appeals court and headed by Judge Ayman Abbas, the head of Cairo Appeals Court. The committee also has two back-up members assigned from the Mansoura and Ismailia courts of appeal. Members are chosen by their seniority in the Egyptian judiciary system.

The six members of the committee are:

  • Judge Anwar Mohamed Gabry, Deputy of the President of the Court of Cassation
  • Judge Ahmed Gamal El-Din, Deputy of the President of the Court of Cassation
  • Judge Gamal Taha, Deputy of the President of the State Council
  • Judge Mohamed Ibrahim Qeshta, Deputy of the President of the State Council
  • Judge Magdy Mounir, The President of the Alexandria Court of Appeals
  • Judge Helmy Saad, President of the Tanta Court of Appeals

How Have the Parliamentary Elections Laws Changed?

Campaign Funds: Changes to the political rights law increased the cap on campaign funding.  Party lists with fifteen candidates will not be allowed to spend more than EGP2.5 million on election campaigns, compared to a previous limit of EGP1 million. In the event of a run-off, the amount is reduced to EGP1 million. Party lists with forty-five candidates will be restricted to EGP7.5 million in campaigning costs, and in the event of a run-off vote the amount is reduced to EGP3 million. Campaign funds for independent candidates remained the same at EGP500,000.

Districts: Changes to the constituenies law in July lowered the number of districts from 237 to 205. A judicial official told AP that the changes addressed the SCC’s concerns which had to the dealy in elections. 

Number of MPs: The law also increased the number of seats, with the coming parliament set to be composed of 596 deputies (eighty-eight more than the 2012 parliament), with 448 as individual candidates, 120 as party-based members, and twenty-eight as presidential nominees. The previous law allocated 420 seats to individuals and 120 through party lists. The New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) will also be granted independent seats in the parliament. NUCA is the agency under the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Development in charge of urban development in the country.

Dual Nationality: The law previously prevented dual nationals from running in the parliamentary elections, despite including a quota for Egyptians living abroad. The stipulation has been removed in the amendments.

Dismissal of Female MPs: The law previously stipulated that female members of parliament can be dismissed from their positions only if they change their affiliation after election. The stipulation has been removed in the amendments.

The text of the parliamentary elections laws can be found here

Who’s Participating?

Egypt’s Socialist Popular Alliance Party recently announced that it will participate in upcoming election. Prior to this shift, the party announced its plan to boycott,in the wake of the shooting of party member,  Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, during a peaceful march on the anniversary of the January 25 revolution.

“There is a consensus among Egyptian political parties that they should not boycott the upcoming polls or contest the election laws,” Nabil Zaki, spokesman for the leftist Tagammu Party, said to Al-Ahram Online. According to Zaki, many opposition parties signed a document agreeing to refrain from filing complaints with the SCC with complaints about the election laws for fear of delaying the polls again. Instead, the opposition plans to bring these laws up in discussion once elected to parliament. The Tagammu Party was joined by the Wafd party in this sentiment.

Nine political parties had launched an initiative in early May proposing new parliamentary election laws, with the Tagammu Party advisory board saying a delay in elections negatively impacted the political climate in the country.

Pro-Sisi Parties, such as the Egyptian Front Coalition and the Independent Current Coalition will also participate. A detailed list parties and coalitions formed prior to the SCC’s March ruling can be found here.

Who is Boycotting?

The Salafi Watan Party and Dostour Party announced in February they will boycott elections in protest of the government’s violations of human rights.

The Watan Party cited studies members of the party had conducted in which they had concluded the governmental system to be repressive as the reason behind their boycott.  An official statement said the party believed Egypt had seen an “annihilation of the democratic path,” and should return to the 2013 constitution.

The Dostour Party added that they believe the political climate does not lend itself to free political participation. “[The] current political environment does not encourage parties to participate in politics,” the party said.

The Jama’a al-Islamiya party has said they are not sure if they will participate in the elections or boycott. The party says it will hold discussions on this topic as elections near.  

Who will be Monitoring the Elections?

As of the end of July, the HEC began receiving applications to cover the elections. Any media outlet or civil society organization must apply through the HEC is they wish to cover the event.  The commission will receive requests until August 20. After receiving permits, organizations will be registered from August 21 to 25, and permits will be handed out from August 26 to 30. The HEC has not released any information on applications it has received. 

When Will the Parliament be Seated?

Polls are likely to be held over a period of two months with the instatement of a new parliament by the end of 2015, according to HEC Spokesman Omar Marawan. Heneidy has also said that he expects the first parliamentary session to take place before the end of 2015. 

Suzanne Gaber is an intern at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

Image: Photo: 2011 Parliamentary elections in Egypt (Jonathan Rashad)