The following post was written by my friend Ramy Yaacoub, which you can find on Twitter @RamyYaacoub (follow him as well) . The Idea behind this is simple: in the absence of organized political forces besides the NDP and the MB, name recognition of independent players is essential. Given that the Presidential candidates have the best name recognition, and most don’t represent a current party, why not have them run for Parliament (with a list of candidates that are part of their coalition) as well? This way, they bring others in parliament who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance, and showcase their actual electability ( the guy who can;t win a parliamentary seat would never be able to win the presidential one), and allows for their presence on the scene even if they lost the elections. Anyway, that’s an overview, read the details below and share your opinion on this in the comment section if u feel like it.
In a post referendum March 19, 2011 Egypt, Parliament will be the only institution representative of people’s choices. As of now, many household figures, namely Amr Moussa, Bastaweesy, Ayman Nour, Baradie, etc have expressed their intentions to run for the presidency. Such names have, somewhat, all agreed in opinion on the need to curb the current presidential powers. Along with the January 25 movement and what I regard as the majority people, the household names have expressed their discontent with the Pharaoh-esque powers of an Egyptian president. They [the household names] have called for the dilution of presidential powers, by creating term limits, creating a checks and balances system, etc.
Meanwhile, other forces in the country, as the Islamic political movements, namely Muslim brotherhood, etc, have consolidated their efforts to legitimize the Parliament. Successfully doing so with the passage of the March 19, 2011 referendum, Parliament now has the popular legitimacy required for a three-part-plan for overhauling the Egyptian constitution. Further elaboration on the three-part-plan will follow later.
The current path to fully fledged constitutional reform and presidential (or the lack of which):
Constitutional Amendment Referendum (Yes) - Amending Electoral & Party laws - Parliamentary Elections - Elected Parliament (Legislative Body)
It is predicted that post assembling a legislative body, they (an elusive they) will hold presidential elections followed immediately by the assembly of a constitutional drafting committee, selected by members of Parliament. Also predicted, the constitutional fruit of that committee will be up for another popular referendum that will either accept or reject the then newly drafted constitution. Should that referendum fail, then the country would revert back to the 1971 constitution. Such scenario would require a separate detailed political plan.
It is clear that Parliamentary elections will indeed take place in the near future (sometime around beginning to mid June 2011). It is also expected that the centrist voting bloc will not have much influence on the Electoral & Party laws amendment process, which will more than likely take place in May 2011. Considering the hurdles ahead, it is wise to consider a dedicated focus on influencing the Parliamentary elections, and furthermore, the first Parliamentary session post the January 25, 2011 uprising.
While it is unclear how the Electoral & Party laws amending process will affect candidacy and elections to the 444 (454 if we consider the ten presidential appointees) seats up for grabs in the People’s Council and less importantly the 174 (264 if we consider the 88 presidential appointees) seats in the Consultative Council, it is safe to predict some, if not significant, changes to the structure of eligibility and voting procedures to Parliament.
Noting one of the first points made in this briefing, household names are betting the house on a presidency that will be subject to constitutional reform sometime in the very near future. Meanwhile, established veterans of Parliament from the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood, with supreme organizational skills are at a vantage point at this stage. Additionally with the relatively short time provided for unorganized opposition groups to assemble and push political message out, it is crucial to consider utilizing the household names in the Parliamentary elections.
To highlight the level of Parliamentary familiarity and organization with institutions such as the Muslim Brotherhood, I would like to site an example of their Parliamentary efforts. In the United States congress an esteemed research center is provided and dedicated to the service of members of congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS). After the more impressive win of Muslim Brotherhood candidates in 2005, the Brotherhood set up an equivalent research center to serve its members in Parliament. Unprecedented in Egyptian Parliamentary history, members of the NDP struggled to catch up with this advantage the Brotherhood created for its team in Parliament. Several scholars agree that if it was not for the corruption of Parliament, this simple tool could have magnified the effect of the Brotherhood in Parliament.
What this brief is proposing is the encouragement and utilization of the household names and their top supporters, advisors, or the like to run for parliament as a counter measure to the strength of the established institutions such as the NDP & the Muslim Brotherhood. The repercussions could be beneficial beyond expected.
I. Having household names in Parliament will gain media attention to a legislative body that was deemed a rubber stamp for decades.
II. The presence of household names in Parliament will give the centrists a more significant leverage in the constitutional drafting process
III. Being a member of Parliament does not hinder a run for the presidency. In fact, instead of having one winner (the presidency) and several losers. By having the households as members of Parliament initially at the end of the presidential elections, all would be in influential positions to mend the current affairs of the nation.
It is imperative for all centrist parties, and perhaps leftist as well to consolidate brain powers to map out the parliamentary districts of Egypt. An efficient polling methodology should be devised and activated to register accurate statistics to determine potential wins and to highlight probable losses. Finally, an agreement on the division of parliamentary districts should be conducted on high-level leadership basis between all involved centrist-leftist parties.