Democracy International (DI) published a report Monday detailing its observation and analysis of the Egyptian parliamentary elections process, covering the period from candidate registration until after the announcement of the electoral process’ delay.
The organisation, accredited by the Supreme Electoral Committee (SEC), began an election observation mission prior to the electoral process’ delay. This marks its third international election observations mission to Egypt, following its missions for the constitutional referendum in January 2014 and the presidential elections in May 2014.
“Unfortunately, the repression of political opposition has increased since the adoption of the constitution and the election of President Al-Sisi,” the report stated regarding the current political environment.
DI cites serious concerns regarding: the lack of freedom of expression for individuals; the restrictive environment for parties and organisations in opposition to the government; and various legal restrictions that impede freedoms.
Moreover, violations of important rights, increased self-censorship, and controversial judicial decisions are all cited as factors contributing to making meaningful political dissent “virtually non-existent”.
Until the report’s publication, only one out of the three laws needed to begin parliamentary elections had been issued. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi approved the law concerning the division of electoral constituencies on 12 July.
Elections were cancelled last March, and are currently pending the revision of previous unconstitutional laws.
The SEC is awaiting two political laws that were under revision, namely the law organising political life, and the law organising parliamentary life. The laws have been revised and are pending presidential approval, according to previous statements by the deputy PM for Parliamentary Affairs, Refaat Al-Komsan.
The report mentions some of the criticisms related to the design of the electoral system, and these included the large proportion of individual seats, which hinders the development of political parties and contributes to their weakening influence.
It also criticised the president’s ability to appoint members, calling it a violation to a basic democratic standard which is the separation between the executive and the legislative branches of government.
Parliamentary elections are set to be held through closed lists and individual seats, setting a majority of 80% to seats elected individually causing controversy.
The new electoral distribution of constituencies did not touch upon the list-system, but reduced the number of constituencies allocated for the individual seats system from 237 to 205.
Regarding the lists, DI criticised the fact that they will be elected on a “winner-takes-it-all rather than a proportional basis”, meaning that the list that wins the majority of votes will win all available seats in that district. This system differs from other list systems that employ “proportional representation”, which would enable the allocation of seats to different lists based on the proportion of votes won by each.
The political environment coupled with the electoral system’s design raise doubts regarding the extent to which the parliament could truly represent the “range of opinions in Egypt”, based on the report’s findings.
Recommendations presented by the report include general ones regarding the political environment in Egypt as well as specific ones regarding the parliamentary electoral process.
DI urged the Egyptian government to uphold and protect rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution, and to seek the inclusion of a diverse range of views in the political process, including the opposition.
Regarding the electoral process, DI recommends a list system based on proportional representation, and increasing the percentage of seats given for such lists. It also recommends holding elections as soon as the necessary laws are amended, and easing the process of candidate registration.
The parliamentary elections represent the third and final phase of the transitional roadmap set out after the July 2013 regime change. The SEC is expected to announce the election details and its schedule towards the beginning of August. Media reports had published speculations about the first round of elections to be held in October.
Democracy International (DI), established in 2003, is a US-based organisation that offers expertise and practical experience in the fields of democracy, human rights and governance.