CAIRO (Reuters) — Egypt’s parliament approved amendments on Wednesday which critics say will help supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi extend their dominance over the chamber in elections expected this year.
The election law amendments mean that 50 percent of those elected to the 596-member House of Representatives will now be chosen through closed party lists, up from 20 percent, with the rest elected as individual candidates.
All of those currently elected on the closed-list system belong to a pro-Sisi coalition. The president’s right to appoint up to 28 members remains unchanged.
Members of parliament who introduced the changes said they would help achieve constitutional commitments to allocate 25 percent of seats to women and assure representation for other groups including workers, farmers, young people, Coptic Christians, people with disabilities and Egyptians living abroad.
But critics, including a small parliamentary opposition bloc, say the closed-list system works against fair representation.
“We believe that doing elections with the absolute closed-list system is rigging the will of the people,” said Haitham al-Hariri, a member of the bloc.
Parliament also approved a law for electing a second chamber, or Senate, established through constitutional amendments last year.
The Senate will be an advisory body without legislative powers. It will have 300 seats and a five-year mandate, with 100 members elected via closed lists and 100 as individuals. The president will appoint the rest.
No dates have been set for elections to the two chambers though parliament’s five-year mandate expires in January.
Last year constitutional amendments allowing Sisi to stay in office till 2030, expanding his power over the judiciary and bolstering the military’s role were approved by referendum.
Supporters said Sisi had stabilized Egypt and needed more time to complete economic reforms. Critics feared a further narrowing of the space for dissent and opposition after a wide-ranging crackdown.
Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Timothy Heritage
Image: A member of a medical team is seen beside a banner for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as he sprays disinfectant as a precautionary move amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at the underground Al Shohadaa “Martyrs” metro station in Cairo, Egypt March 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)