Vision of the next parliament

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The New Year 2015 has begun, and Egypt is in a race against time to complete the roadmap plan, started after the overthrow of the Brotherhood system. This involves conducting the elections for parliament and the formation of this important legislative institution which represents the third power of the State, after the executive and the judiciary powers.

There is no doubt that conducting these elections in a transparent fashion and applying international standards in overseeing all election procedures will go a long way toward ensuring greater credibility for the Egyptian state and for the revolution of June 30, 2013. It would also guarantee Egypt’s attractiveness for foreign investment after the Economic Forum, as investment is closely tied to security and stability.

The vision of the next parliament vacillates among the Optimists and the Pessimists. In the Optimists’ view, the next parliament will be devoid of ideological overtones, with the majority of independent parliamentarians truly wanting to represent their electorate and having no intimate links to a political party; this fact will enable them to side with the president and his policies and even to find in those policies their own agendas. The Pessimists don’t see eye to eye on this. They see the absence of party politics in the next parliament as making it more difficult for the president and his policies to find supporters, in a parliament devoid of strong political party representation. For this, they blame the weak sense of party affiliation among independent MPs and site the difficulty of bringing MPs together in the absence of party hierarchies and organization. Thus, weak party representation would be one of the most serious drawbacks of the next parliament.

Going beyond the Pessimists and the Optimists, the reality of the situation indicates that the legal atmosphere for the next parliamentary elections – whether regarding the electoral law itself, or the division of electoral districts or other factors – may not be conducive to the election of a strong parliament that truly reflects the spirit of the Thirtieth of June 2013; that revolutionary wave in which millions of young people participated, along with “The Couch Party” and the different political forces. In fact, what may not be represented in this parliament, is the different categories which defended the Thirtieth of June, and whose interest is in the continuation of the alliance that led these events to their final outcome, i.e., ridding Egypt of the Brotherhood and the establishment the new regime, the secular and democratic state.

The electoral law for the upcoming parliament suffers from many drawbacks, among them the unevenness between candidates and electoral districts, which opens the door to appeals before the Supreme Constitutional Court. Another drawback of the law is the closed-list system, which allows the list that wins with over 50% of votes to receive all the seats, potentially wasting 49 percent of the votes of certain districts, which would then receive no representation at all in the next parliament.

These drawbacks as well as many others, cast a shadow on the image of the next legislative council, the parliament; especially with the dedication of a large proportion of seats to individual candidates (versus to electoral lists), which means opening the door for those with money influence and for the weight of family, clan and tribal affiliation to play the most prominent role in these upcoming elections.

Be that as it may, it is difficult to predict what the next parliament will look like, or what its nature, identity or composition may be. One thing stands beyond a doubt though, whether in these elections or in any others and that is, Egyptians have regained their awareness and their interest in public affairs after decades of absence. The Citizens’ awareness, understanding, perception and insight will enable them to rule out corrupt candidates, whether from the ranks of the Brotherhood or supporters of the former regime before the revolution; thus enabling the choice of those who are able to support the President and the state in the coming period.

Abdel-Alim Mohamed is a counselor at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.