FILE: Egyptian expats in France signing “Alshan Tbneeha” petition to support President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi for a second term in 2018 elections – Press photo FILE: Egyptian expats in France signing “Alshan Tbneeha” petition to support President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi for a second term in 2018 elections – Press photo

OPINION: The electoral scene in Egypt and the expected presidential program

Wed, Jan. 31, 2018
CAIRO – 31 January 2018: Since the National Election Authority declared the date of the presidential elections, that is, March 2018, the political scene began to witness a state of anticipation and skepticism about some aspects of the process.

People began to speak of the announced timetable as if it were “carved in stone” without prior arrangement, though the current political regime has been paving the way for elections for some time. The regime is acting as per Article 140 of the Constitution, which states that the election procedures shall be initiated at least 120 days prior to the end of the presidential term. This is exactly what the National Election Authority did, when it announced the timetable on January 8, 2018, as per the constitution.

Moreover, in April 2016, the government finalized the National Election Authority Bill, which was submitted to the Legislation Department in the State Council for review, upon the Cabinet’s approval. Articles 208, 209 and 210 of the 2014 Constitution detail the National Election Authority’s competences and how it is formed. The Parliament passed the bill, and the President ratified it in August 2017.

People had issues with the elections timetable, though it does not really differ from the timetable made by the Supreme Presidential Elections Committee in 2014. The current timetable even extends election days to three rather than two, because many private and government corporations did not give their employees these days off work, and many could not reach their election committees as they were too far from work. This led many voters to miss the opportunity to cast their votes. Many called for extending the days allocated for voting an extra day, which is what the National Election Authority did.

It is noteworthy that election days for Egyptian expatriates in the first and second rounds are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, whereas for citizens residing in Egypt, they are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. This will repeat the scenario of the 2014 elections, when many voters did not go cast their ballots, especially since the Committee closes at 6 p.m., thus making it challenging for voters to get there after their work day is over.

Political Parties and the Electoral Scene:

People are also talking about the lack of running candidates, and that only some declared unofficial “intentions”. This raised concerns prematurely that there would be no candidates other than President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, though Article 36 of the Presidential Election Act – issued in March 2014 – states that presidential elections shall be held even if only one candidate runs, or if only one candidate remains because all others have withdrawn.

In this case, the candidate wins the election if he obtains 5 percent of votes from registered voters. If the candidate does not obtain the 5 percent, the National Election Authority announces a new round of elections no later than 15 days from the results’ declaration date, and elections are then held as per this law.

We can say that candidates’ delay (who in fact had to announce their presidential programs and promote them a year before President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s term ends) reflects the state of parties’ political fragmentation. There are 80 parties in Egypt, but only 15 could attain seats in the Parliament. It is unfortunate that they only obtain a few seats. The number of seats parties could get in the Parliament ranges from one to 65, with Al-Misriyeen Al-Ahrar Party (Free Egyptians Party) holding 65 seats. All parties attained 245 seats combined, which constitute 39% of Parliament seats, whereas independent politicians obtained 351 seats, which constitute 56% of total seats.

No serious attempts at forming coalitions between the political parties in the Parliament have been undertaken. These coalitions could have resulted in the formation of two major parties capable of influencing the government as well as motivating independent politicians to join them. Observers of Egyptian parties can easily notice that they are plagued with internal political conflicts over power. Many party leaders and members of parties’ supreme committees have resigned from their posts.

This landscape reflects the political parties’ immaturity despite the progress Egyptian politics has achieved – the two revolutions and changing the regime twice. This makes it unlikely for political parties to follow the current constitution, which stipulates clear democratic mechanisms for the transfer of power.

It is true that recently some parties announced their nomination of certain candidates, but this step was taken late, and does not suit the critical elections in our homeland.

It should be noted that the law cannot prevent any candidate from running if s/he have no experience in politics or have suspicious local or foreign connections. However, Egyptians can choose considering the facts revealed to them and can vote for the candidate suitable for this all-important position in the state.

The Next President’s Program:

The next president’s program is attracting a lot of attention. In that regard, it is noteworthy that Egypt has the 2030 Strategy, which President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi declared in February 2016. This strategy should be the backbone of any presidential program and none of them should deviate from them. It is also the roadmap for the future of Egypt, through which the government’s medium-term program until June 2018 is executed. The Prime Minister presented this program to the Parliament on March 27, 2016, and it was approved.

The Presidential Program:

We can say that there are general frameworks for the next president’s program, which guarantee moving toward the 2030 Strategy, and they are as follows:

Locally:

Continuing the process of democratic transformation faster, while also dealing with some negative issues in this regard, as Egypt becomes a modern civil state.

Continuing down the path for economic reform, while focusing on improving the living standards of those with limited and average incomes, expanding support for the poor, faster reconstruction of slums, development of poor villages (most of which are located in Upper Egypt), finishing national projects like the New Administrative Capital, reclamation of the million and a half feddans, economic development of the Suez Canal Axis, Sinai, the national project for road construction, Sinai tunnels and beginning the Egyptian nuclear project.

Continuing fierce anti-terrorism efforts, with a focus on West Egypt, as terrorists escaping from Syria and Iraq attempt to use to sneak into the country.

Continuing to support Egypt’s military capacities, to right the strategic imbalance the region witnessed, and to guarantee the protection of Egypt’s national security.

On the Foreign Level:

Refusing to involve Egypt in wars in the region.

Continuing to follow a balanced foreign policy, which protects Egyptian national interests from international polarization, as well as expanding the circle of Egypt’s allies, especially countries with power and influence in the world.

Finally, we cannot deny the importance of presidential elections, which reflect a responsibility shouldered by all candidates, political parties and Egyptian citizens who are the culprits in this scene. They are the ones who can evaluate candidates, their programs, and choose who will shoulder the responsibility and continue the journey of development which has already started, and people have already begun to be substantially conscious about it.

Samaa Soliman currently works at the Department of Political Science, Information and Decision Support Center. Samaa does research in Language Education, International Economics and Public Economics. Their current project is 'Building Scenario'.

This article was originally published in Arabic on Siyassa.org.eg
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