On November 28, the first round of the elections for Egypt's parliament (the People's Assembly or Majlis Al-Sha'b), start in Egypt. The Egyptian parliament will consist of 498 members.
Of these, a third of the seats (166 members) are elected by absolute majority vote in their own electoral district through a two-round system to serve 5-year terms. Every district contains two seats and electors are given two votes. At least one seat in each district is reserved for a worker or farmer.
If no candidate receives an absolute majority in the first round, a second round is held one week later. This round will contain the top 4 vote-getters, provided two are workers and/or farmers. If the two top candidates in the first round are not workers or farmers, the top candidate is elected, while a new simple majority poll is held a week later among the top workers and farmers.
Two-thirds of the seats in Parliament (332 members) are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system in each of the 46 districts, which are divided within Egypt’s 27 governorates.
This complicated system is different from the past, when candidates could only be elected if they received the majority of votes in a particular district. There was no closed-list proportional representation system in larger districts, which worked to the disadvantage of smaller groups in society such as Copts but also liberals.
Since in the past there were practically no districts with a Coptic majority, Copts only stood a chance at being elected if they were supported by a good share of the Muslim electorate.
In the new proportional system, Copts in governorates with a substantial Coptic minority, such as the governorate of Minia, which according to CAPMAS had a Coptic population of about 20 percent in 1996, will have much better chances to get elected.
Liberals are also expected to benefit from the new electoral system in comparison to the old system, which was used since the revolution of 1952.
A senior Egyptian diplomat told me that he hoped that with the new system Copts will be better represented in parliament and thus will better participate in the political decision making in comparison with the past. He spoke of the days of Egyptian nationalist leader Sa’ad Zaghloul (1859-1927), who was successfully able to get Copts to participate in Egyptian political life.
The elections will be divided into three stages:
The First Stage will be a parliamentary election on November 28, 2011, in nine Governorates ( Cairo, Fayoum, Port Sa’id, Dumyat, Alexandria, Kafr Al Sheikh, Assiut, Luxor, Red Sea region)
November 29, Elections for the Shura Council (Senate)
The run off election (repeating) will be on December 5, 2011
The Second Stage will be on December 14, 2011, in nine Governorates (Giza, Beni Suef, Minufia, Sharqia, Ismailia, Suez, Beheira, Suhag, Aswan)
The run off election (repeating) will be on December 21, 2011
The Third Stage for the parliamentary elections will be on January 3, 2012, in 9 Governorate (El- Minia, Qalyubia, Gharbiya, Dakahliya, North Sinai, South Sinai, Qena and the New Valey)
Egypt’s Presidential elections are now set to be held in March 2012.
It is my opinion that the election was divided into multiple stages so that the Egyptian judiciary would better be able to monitor the election process as a whole.
The country is currently paralyzed, with many important decisions having been postponed until after the elections.
It is thus hoped that a large percentage of Egypt’s eligible voters will indeed participate in these elections, which will help give the government credibility and allow Egypt to move forward.