CAIRO — The military-appointed interim president of Egypt on Friday issued an election law that experts say all but eliminates the chance of parliamentary opposition to his successor, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who installed the interim government.
“The members of Parliament are almost all definitely going to be loyal to the president in one way or another,” said Zaid al-Ali, who tracks the Egyptian transition for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. “It will be a rubber stamp instead of a check on presidential power.”
The electoral law was included in a barrage of seven decrees issued by the interim president, Adly Mansour, just two days before he was to leave office. President-elect Sisi, who led the military takeover last year and received 95 percent of the votes in last week’s presidential election, will be inaugurated on Sunday.
Some of the new laws appeared to be politically sensitive measures that Mr. Sisi’s supporters in the government might have wished to promulgate before he took office. Among other things, the new laws added a five-percentage-point income tax hike on high earners for a period of three years, imposed heavy fines for littering, banned any Islamic preacher who is not authorized by the state, and prescribed jail time and other criminal penalties for sexual harassment.
Some rights advocates applauded the criminalization of sexual harassment as an important first step. Yet rights groups have often complained that the police fail to enforce existing protections for women.
The election law was the most significant new measure because it appeared designed to produce a compliant legislature instead of to promote political pluralism or a balance of power.
The measure allows election authorities to bar the candidacy of any supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that dominated Egypt’s free elections after the 2011 uprising but has been outlawed. Election authorities can disqualify any candidate who is deemed to support a religiously-based or religiously discriminatory organization — both criteria could apply to the Brotherhood. The law also allows the authorities to exclude candidates who support an organization that has been involved in violence; the government has already decreed the Brotherhood a terrorist group.
Experts on transitions to democracy from authoritarian systems like Egypt’s usually favor voting systems based on party lists because they can help new or smaller parties gain some representation. Egypt’s new law allows lists for only 20 percent of the 567 parliamentary seats. Instead of helping to open doors for new or small parties, the law creates a winner-take-all system in which all of a large bloc of seats are rewarded to the party that gets the most votes in a district.
Adding to the burden for small parties, the law requires the party lists to include minimum quotas of women, Christians, young people, workers or farmers, and the disabled.
About 75 percent of the 567 seats are reserved for individual candidates competing to win a district, and another 5 percent are appointed by the president.
In developing countries like Egypt, with little history of party politics, individual candidate systems almost always favor locally powerful businessmen, family leaders or political patrons eager to curry favor with a president, rather than ideological or opposition parties, experts say.
The election law also brings back a vexing legal wrinkle by reopening the door to the dissolution of Parliament by the Supreme Constitutional Court. The court has invalidated parliaments at least three times by ruling their electoral schemes or districting maps unconstitutional. In the spring of 2012, the court ordered the immediate dissolution of Egypt’s first freely elected Parliament in six decades — dominated by Islamists — allowing the military to assume legislative power.
The Constitution drafted later in 2012 by an Islamist-led assembly sought to prevent judicial dissolution of future parliaments by requiring court approval of the electoral plan before the election. But that provision has been eliminated, and the new electoral law has not detailed the districts, again leaving them open to a court challenge and dissolution.
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(via NY Times)