Egyptian court: Electoral system unconstitutional

This seems like a significant development:

Judge Magdy el-Agaty of the High Administrative Court said the elaborate system that apportioned seats among individuals and political parties violated the constitution. He referred parts of the election law to the Supreme Constitutional Court for a final judgement…

The parliamentary election… was held under an elaborate system under which a third of seats were allocated to individuals and two thirds to political parties.

Agaty said this ratio violated the constitution and half of seats should have been reserved for individuals. He also said parties should not have been permitted to field candidates for the seats reserved for individuals.

“The court views that allowing political parties to run for independent seats violates the principles of constitutional equality and has doubtful constitutionality,” Agaty said in the ruling, which was handed down Monday and released Tuesday.

Excerpted from Reuters.

5 thoughts on “Egyptian court: Electoral system unconstitutional

  1. Judicial misinterpretation of a two-tiered system? Otherwise, I’m not sure how one would be able to enforce the non-contestation by parties of seats reserved to independents (i.e., prevent behind-the-scenes coordination). Are there really such reserved seats, for that matter? Can David from Ahwa Talk elucidate?

  2. I’m guessing this has to do with vague language guaranteeing that independents aren’t excluded. There was considerable revision of Egypt’s election law during the 1980s based on how fair the system was to Independents. The 1984 election was considered unconstitutional because its PR system excluded independents. Because the president was nominated by parliament and approved via plebiscite, this would mean the legality of the presidency would be in question as well. Mubarak knew he would either have to 1) change the way the presidency was elected or 2) call for snap elections. He chose the latter in 1987 under a new system, which 10% of seats were reserved for independents. This was later declared unconstitutional (leading to the 1990 election) in which they moved to the pure two-seat, two-round election they had until 2010.

    There was some discussion of these requirements in the months leading up to the elections. Initially, the SCAF only wanted half the seats to be PR, giving independents equal opportunity. Then they moved to the 2/3 requirement, but with a stipulation that parties were barred from the nominal tier. There was talk that this was the only way to follow the constitution, but public protests and threats of boycotts from the largest parties forced the SCAF to take that provision out.

    I agree with Jack, however, that enforcement of this seems impossible. In fact, throughout the 90s, a large portion of NDP MPs were independents who were bought off by the party after they won. Everybody knew during the election who the “NDP independent” candidates were.

    It’s also important to note that when you include the upcoming presidential election and referendum on the yet-to-be drafted constitution, Egypt will have had 16 separate election days since the fall of Mubarak. That’s not even including the local elections planned for the summer. Rerunning these elections would be a nightmare.

  3. On what reasoning does the judge believe that the constitution believes independents are entitled to half the seats? I know of no system that out rights bans political parties. Yet this legislative assembly, which is quite large, has to operate without a party structure. And if there is a legal reason for denying parties the ability to compete in 2/3 of the seats why stop at giving the independents half? Why not 60% or at least 50% + 1? I don’t see an obvious answer to these question frankly it seems rather peculiar for any political system, even if it were in transition.

  4. Paris: actually, quite a number of countries, especially in the Arab world (eg: Oman) hold elections in which parties are banned.

  5. Apparently, the upper house has finalised a newelectoral bill – but how can such a bill become law if the lower house is dissolved?

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