In a few weeks the Egyptians will go to the polls again, for the sixth time in two-and-a-half years, amid confusing political complications that didn’t even spare the supporters of June 30 movement.
This tension is reflected in the political statements of Egyptian political leaders, especially in their opinion of the electoral system of the anticipated parliamentarian elections.
One example of these tense statements was made by Dr. Mohammad Abou el-Ghar, the head of the democratic Egyptian Party. He said: “the president and his aides, the army command and the cabinet should realize that the democratic process will stop and that a new revolution is inevitably underway, marked by chaos, if the elections are held on the basis of individual seats only.”
It is clear that the political scene is confusing and ever-changing. As political parties recall bad memories of the system of individual seats in which they failed to win the electoral race. This was certainly the case in the 2011 elections, when the civilian parties only won eight seats from the 166 seats of parliament available.
This might explain why most parties are calling for a proportional system as a way to compensate the political void created by the decline of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists after the June 30th revolution, although they had a bad experience in filling the gap in the parliament of 2011.
The real challenge is to convince Egyptians to vote and ensure that they vote in their favor, not for parties of a Salafist nature.
It is worth mentioning that Egypt hosts 78 political parties, 24 were established prior to the Jan. 25 revolution, while the others were announced or established after that date. Only 10 parties (the Islamic bloc) succeeded in getting 70% of the seats in the 2011 elections.
The civilian parties see the current political climate as an opportunity to seize the moment; they are therefore seeking an electoral system based on proportional lists.
The ad-Dustour party held the electoral system accountable for the revolutions of January and June. This is because they say the two round elections neglected the opinion of 70% of the voters and marginalized them as the first forerunners also competed in the second round.
As for Tamarod, the group that initiated and led June 30th revolution, it sees the individual system as the best one considering the absence of leading political parties in Egypt. An absence which threatens the return of pro-Mubarak and Muslim Brotherhood parties to the political scene.
They say that the most successful elections in Egypt were the ones held under the individual candidates system which was in place from 1923 to 1984. The system was abolished by the higher constitutional court in 1987. They also say another period of success was from 1990 until the revolution of Jan. 2011, when the mixed system was reinstated which led to the political chaos prior to the first popular revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood regime.
The real challenge for the 68 civilian parties, is to adapt to the requirements of any electoral system, be it in the number of candidates or the financial burden of the electoral campaigns. This explains the urge of forming coalitions, such as the one announced between Mohammad Alarabi from al-Mouetamar party and the Liberal Egyptians.
But it is difficult to agree on a unified favorite electoral system amid the political tension prevalent in Egypt. Especially since all parties take into consideration that the elections will be the first held after adopting the amendments to the present constitution, which will favor a mixed system between the presidential and parliamentarian bodies, a system that is starting to gain ground.
The upcoming elections will witness the return to traditional voting in favor of traditional families, especially in the country side and the desert governorates at the borders, where social and economic influence is more dominant that political programs. The traditional families in the country side have always supported the ruling parties and are in favor of the individual system, while the tribes of the borders tend to vote for the Salafists.
But the real question remains about the purpose of the elections; is it only to alienate the Muslim Brotherhood, other Islamic parties and pro-Mubarak candidates in the absence of any real political discussion about the achievements sought from these elections in terms of the political role of the parliament?
The discussion has not yet reached the stage of answering whether the Egyptians want a two-party system or a coalition that prevents a political monopoly.
Answering these questions will definitely determine the future of the parliament and the government, and the nature of the relationship between them.
But the real problem remains that the political parties are not qualified to fill the political gap, unless they ink coalitions between them and the communities in the elections which will witness the triumph of the traditional ties in half of Egypt’s governorates.
The real challenge for the 68 civilian parties, is to adapt to the requirements of any electoral system, be it in the number of candidates or the financial burden of the electoral campaigns.
In fact, the revolution of June 30 did not attack political Islam, which means that the Salafist movements, especially al-Daewa and al-Nour are likely to gain 15% of the new parliament.
The diversified political scene urges adopting an electoral system that guarantees the most complete participation of all the social components and age groups. This will allow the youth and the traditional families to sit side by side in the parliament, and participate in legislation and control together.
The ideal system might be to maintain the traditional 222 small constituencies and choose two candidates from each district, one at least from the workers or the farmers, with the proportional representation system of the political parties at a national level for a maximum of 100 candidates, while at the same time forbidding parties from competing with individual candidates over the individual seats. This would stop the system from being judged as unconstitutional and would help to create a favorable environment for the youth and new parties to gain seats, and encourage families and tribes to present their candidates and give parties a chance to gain popularity.
Returning to the small districts and encouraging voters to participate, as well as the anticipated presence of those who used to refrain from political participation, will contribute to creating a new political formula which would likely contribute to rearranging the power balance and guaranteeing a better presence for all.
This suggested system will give Egypt the opportunity to have a parliament that represents a diversified spectrum of social and political powers, giving youth the chance they deserve to be fairly represented. The suggested system will reinstate important elements which cannot be neglected and will guarantee the presence of religious groups in the parliament of the future, in addition to paving the way to the rise of two or three big parties to be surrounded by smaller entities which have the right and the power to control the activities of the executive power.