Unjust Representation of Women in the Coming House of Representatives

Joint Statement

25 May 2014

Lack of Public Dialogue with all Concerned Parties on the Law of the Exercise of Political Rights and the Law on the House of Representatives leads to Unjust Representation of Women in the Coming House of Representatives (the parliament)

The Committee concerned with the Amendment of both laws did not pay attention to the Demands of Feminist Organizations regarding the Best Electoral System for Women

The undersigned parties and organizations followed up the draft law of the parliament which was published on the morning of Wednesday, the 21st of May 2014, and which will be announced in a press conference by the Committee concerned with the amendment of the law of the Exercise of Political Rights and the law of the House of Representatives on Saturday, the 24th of May 2014. The undersigned express their discontent that the demands of feminist groups and organizations concerned with the rights of women, as well as a number of political parties regarding the implementation of an electoral system that achieves representative justice for women in the coming legislative council. These organizations and parties called for the adoption of mixed electoral system where 50% of seats are elected according to candidate-centered system and 50% by closed proportional lists, and half of candidate-centered seats are to be reserved for women, and zebra model is adopted in proportional lists so that women manage to acquire 50% of PR seats in the coming parliament of Egypt.

The Committee in charge of amending the two laws was keen to hold the conference two days before the start of the voting process for presidential elections and amid the preoccupation of all concerned parties, like political parties and civil society organizations, with presidential elections. Thus, these concerned parties will not actually take part in the public dialogue, and the proposed law will be forcibly imposed on every one. Consequently, Multipartism will be curtailed and fair representation of the different categories of Egyptian society is ignored in light of the adoption of the candidate-centered system for the majority of seats in the Parliament.

The undersigned also assert that there is lack of transparency concerning the work of the Committee and abstention from calling most concerned parties to public discussion of the amendments of the law, in order to include their demands before drafting the amendments. Moreover, not officially proposing the amendments for public discussion in this period will not make them understood and discussed among the concerned parties and the population at large.

The amendments were presented in an informal way as newspapers suddenly came out with a draft law that shows that the Committee adopted an electoral system that is semi-mixed including 80% of seats elected by candidate-centered system and 20% by absolute-majority block lists which include young people, Christians, women, disabled persons, workers, peasants, and Egyptians abroad.

The undersigned condemn ignoring these substantive demands which would have led to a better representation of women compared to the proposed system. The undersigned also state that the law should stipulate that women are put on the top of lists in order to guarantee that the coming parliament will include 24 women if we have three women in each of the eight lists, and even this will be actually unfair representation pursuant to the constitutional obligation. The candidate-centered system does not guarantee any opportunity for the representation of women in the current circumstances. Likewise, the adoption of absolute-majority block list leads to hegemony of influential political parties and currents on party list seats, and making it hard for actual competition to take place because the strongest lists will seize all the seats, which will affect women belonging to less influential currents and reduce their representation in the coming Parliament.

The draft law did not specify the number of districts of the candidate-centered system. It canceled law no. 38 for the year 1972 and stipulated an amendment of electoral lists according to population density. Thus, the committee should have attached a schedule of the electoral districts in order to be proposed for public dialogue.

Thus, the undersigned call for postponing the issuance of the law on the exercise of political rights and the law of the House of Representatives after the end of presidential elections so that they are presented for serious dialogue with all concerned parties before it is enacted by the coming President.

The undersigned express their discontent that the suggestions of these organizations and groups regarding the electoral system that is most conducive for enabling women to effectively take part in the elections of the coming House of Representatives.

The undersigned:
1. The Egyptian Feminist Union (under establishment).
2. Women Committee – the Egyptian National Democratic Party.
3. Oumi [My Mother] Association for Rights and Development.
4. Bent El-Ard [Daughter of Land] Association.
5. Al-Dostour Party.
6. Bread and Freedom Party (under establishment)
7. Egypt Freedom Party.
8. The Arab Woman Association.
9. The Permanent Committee for Egyptian Women.
10. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
11. Cairo Center for Development and Human Rights.
12. Center for Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development.
13. Masr El-Metnewara [Enlightened Egypt] Foundation.
14. Egypt Development Forum.
15. Legal Organization for the assistance of Family and Human Rights.
16. New Woman Foundation.
17. Egyptian Foundation for Family Development.
18. Baheya Foundation for Culture and Development.
19. Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance.
20. Nazra for Feminist Studies.