CAIRO – 27 August 2020: A debate has been raised in Egypt after a list with names of 54 million registered voters, who did not cast their ballots in the 2020 Senate elections, was sent to prosecution to be fined L.E. 500 (US$ 31.51) or less.
Although the fine is stipulated in the law of Political Practices, many citizens reacted satirically to the decision, ruling out the imposing of the fine. Some initiated a hashtag “What would you say before the prosecution?” which collected many comics with pictures of long queues of voters, referring to the difficulty of applying the decision due to the huge numbers of absentees.
The National Election Authority (NEA) announced that only 8 million out of more than 62 million of eligible voters cast their ballots during the first round of the Senate election mid-August, with a participation rate that did not exceed 14.23 percent.
Why applying the fine?
Counselor Lashin Ibrahim, the head of the National Election Authority, said in a phone call with TV show, that applying the fine is not a “heresy,” but stipulated in the Egyptian law, and many countries are implementing it. He added that the NEA is independent and applies the provisions of the law.
He also explained that previous committees that were in charge before the NEA, were only organizing the elections, and that these committees did not have enough time to impose fine procedures.
“The fine is stipulated in the law, and we are activating it, because we are a permanent, stable and independent body, while the previous committees were delegated for some time only,” he added.
He also noted that the Public Prosecution has the authority and competence to carry out the fine procedures in coordination with the Attorney General.
The NEA convened Wednesday to discuss how the authorities made every possible effort for voters to participate in the election safely during the Covid-19 pandemic, calling repeatedly on citizens to vote, but many still failed to appear at polling stations and play their "patriotic role."
The meeting resulted in creating the list as per Article 57 of the 2014 Law 45 on practicing political rights, which entails a fine of no more than LE500 on registered voters who did not cast their ballots.
The election result is yet to be announced in the coming hours, and the runoff, if any, will be in September. The move by the National Election Authority may motivate voters to participate in the runoff.
In remarks to “On My Responsibility” talk show on Sada Al-Balad T.V., Lashine stated that the fine could be LE 15.
How the fine will be collected?
Regarding the mechanism of applying the penalty, the constitutional jurist Salah Fawzy told Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper on Thursday that there are “several mechanisms by which this fine is collected…because citizens’ affairs are linked to the national ID card, and the National Elections Authority has a complete database of citizens with names, national number and addresses.”
He added that citizens can pay the fine while they are requesting any service such as issuing licenses; then the fine can be added to the value of these services.
Fawzy further explained that any citizen can seek to get exempted from paying the fine by submitting to the prosecution documents justifying the reason why they did not participate in the elections, and then the judiciary, as an independent body, will rule in each case.”