Sunday, 9 October 2011

Egypt's latest 8th of October Amendments To Election Law

Just a quick recap, I don't know why no one else seemed to have published this officially yet in English, so here goes. SCAF just made two decrees today:

1- Article 5 of the Election Law, the one stipulating that elections must be made using both proportional representation and direct election, has been removed altogether from the law. We are still trying to understand what truly prompted that, with reasons ranging from the benign to the malevolent. Rampant speculation is that there is another big amendment law coming up, possibly allowing all elections to be via the proportional representation system. I am genuinely getting tired of the election law saga, and it is beginning to turn into the myth of Sisyphus.

2- Other than that, amendments have been made to the "Law Organising The Exercise Of Political Life" (Law 73 of 1956), with key changes such as: if you are registered as a voter and you do not go to vote, you pay a fine of no more than 500 EGP (~$85), only if you didn't go to vote "without an excuse". I think it is a needless amendment at such a critical time, and could  only serve to collect money from people who can't afford to pay such sums, with a huge space for fraud and extortion by still very corrupt government bureaucracy and security personnel. And what is the mechanism for the "display of valid excuses"?

Other than that, you get a set of mostly logical fines and prison sentences for: using or threatening to use violence to affect the outcome of the elections in any way; tampering with the electoral lists or election cards; spreading false information that would affect the outcome of the election; bribery, offering a bribe, or offering to take a bribe; any intentional damaging of any infrastructure, vehicles or other assets used in the electoral process (you could be forced to pay to replace what has been damaged as well); if you print or distribute fake electoral cards; pretending to be someone else who can affect the elections and actually use that other identity to affect the votes in any way (example, speaking to the voters in a rally as another person); insulting any member of the electoral commission at the voting station one is using; and most importantly, the law forbids any election slogans based on religion, gender, ethnicity or any other segregational or dividing line. The Muslim Brotherhood recently said they will fight that particular law, arguing it was "unconstitutional" They want to be able to use their famous "Islam Is The Solution" slogan. Using such a slogan could lead to a prison sentence of no less than 3 months, and a fine ranging between $1000-2000. (There are also other lesser important amendments. Not only would there be fined and prison sentences, but judges and the electoral commission could either annul the suspect votes or even force a rerun of the particular election under doubt. Also, candidates benefitting from the fraud could be fined, imprisoned and/or suspended from running for political office for 5 years in case of the establishment of a positive connection between the fraud and the candidate.

An afterthought, I would really like to see the pre-amendments law. If these are the amendments, what exactly was illegal before those amendments then?

UPDATE: Al Dostour also says Field Marshall Tantawi, SCAF Head, issued a decree making the army cover the costs of publishing the official notice of establishment of new youth-led political parties in newspapers, as well as providing logistical support for such new parties. Army wins PR points, protesters to look worse.

Note: I published the entire text of the amendments In the original Arabic here.

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