x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Parties threaten Egyptian election boycott over 'reserved seats' for independents

Democratic Coalition of two dozen groups including Islamist Muslim Brotherhood said its members would not stand in November¿s elections if an article in the new electoral law reserving a third of the seats in parliament for independent candidates was not amended.

CAIRO // The credibility of Egypt's first elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak was thrown into question yesterday after a coalition led by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood threatened a boycott.

A statement late on Wednesday by the Democratic Coalition said its members would not stand in November's legislative elections if an article in the new electoral law was not amended. Article Five bans political parties from running in a third of the seats in parliament, which are reserved for independent candidates.

The measure has already been rejected by more than two dozen political parties, who object that it could help return old regime figures to parliament.

"We refuse to take part in elections if Article Five of the electoral law is not cancelled," said the Democratic Coalition statement.

The coalition comprises more than two dozen groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the liberal Wafd party.

Egypt's interim military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, announced on Tuesday that the first stage of parliamentary elections would be held on November 28.

But in an amendment to the electoral law, it said two thirds of parliament would be elected through a party list under the proportional representation system.

The rest would be elected through a simple majority, which only independent candidates would be allowed to contest.

The Democratic Coalition said it was "astonished" at the Supreme Council's position.

It argued that the article "refused the request of the political forces to elect all members of parliament by the closed, proportional lists system".

Under Article Five, it said, a third of the seats would be exclusively for "independents and candidates from the old regime".

The Democratic Coalition had called for a pure proportional representation system.

It also wants to see the activation of a law that would ban corrupt politicians from running for office.

Under the old system, hundreds of candidates ran as independents if they did not make it onto Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party lists, only to join the party after winning seats.

Under Mr Mubarak, independents affiliated with his party used patronage or pressure to garner votes, something that the proportional list system would help avoid, the parties said.

Article Five of the new electoral law specifically forbids those elected as independents from joining a parliamentary bloc once elected - on pain of losing their seats.

The military had promised that it would not conduct the election under a state of emergency, which was widened in scope this month after protesters ransacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo and clashed with police.

A military official has told state media that the emergency law could stay in place until mid-2012, although the military wanted to end the state of emergency as soon as possible.