Cairo, 12 Rabi’ul Akhir 1434/ 22 February 2013 (MINA) – Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has approved the amendment to the legislative election law and called on Egyptians to participate in the first parliamentary vote since the approval of the new constitution, according to official Egyptian MENA news agency reports monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Friday (21/2).
According to a presidential decree issued late Thursday (20/2), the polls will be held in four stages spanning from April 27 to June 27, and the first session of the new parliament is scheduled to be held on July 6.
Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt parliament, adopted on Thursday an electoral law as amended by the Constitutional Court, clearing the way for President Mohamed Mursi to set a date for lower house elections.
Mursi was expected to ratify the electoral law by Feb.25 and announce voting will be held in about two months’ time to choose the lower house, which was dissolved last year after the court ruled the original law used to elect it was unfair.
On Monday the Constitutional Court demanded changes to five articles of the revised electoral law.
The Shura Council accepted this ruling and adopted the legislation without a vote. “The decision of the Constitutional Court is binding and we have no right to vote on it. It must be carried out,” said Ahmed Fahmy, the Council’s speaker.
The new law bars members of parliament from changing their political affiliation once they are elected.
The court’s commissioners challenged the constitutionality of an article that allows party members to compete for individual seats, which they said would crowd out independent contenders.
The commissioners also challenged articles on the division of constituencies, qualification of candidacy, and the judicial supervision of overseas Egyptians’ votes, as well as an article that they said is gender-biased.
The Shura Council, which endorsed all the amendment the court submitted, assumed full legislative authority in December 2012 and will hold the power until the People’s Assembly (lower house) is elected.
Under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, independents were often cajoled into joining the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which monopolised parliament and political life before the 2011 revolution.
The law also stipulates that one third of the lower house should be designated for independents and bans former members of the now defunct NDP from participating in politics for at least 10 years.
Elections will probably be held in more than one stage in different regions because of a shortage of poll supervisors.
Meanwhile, the government said on Thursday it plans to invite an IMF mission to Cairo within a week, signalling an imminent resumption of negotiations over a $4.8 billion loan as it struggles with an acute foreign currency shortage.
In a separate incident, Egyptian prosecutors have questioned an award-winning novelist over accusations he insulted religion, in the latest of a series of cases to cause concern over freedom of expression in Egypt.
Writer Youssef Ziedan said he had been interrogated for four hours on Tuesday about his 2009 novel Arab Theology, which has become a best seller since it was republished recently.
The prosecutors were examining a three-year-old report from the Islamic Research Centre, a state-sponsored body of religious scholars, which said Ziedan had offended followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism alike. (T/P011/E1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)