As Egypt prepares for parliamentary elections this year, many observers are expecting them to be even fiercer than those held in 2005. Parliamentary elections will be followed by presidential elections in 2011, and the ruling party and opposition parties—and even some independent figures, if rumors are to be believed—are already gearing up. However, the constitutional changes made following the first competitive presidential election in 2005 removed all remaining guarantees of fair elections, which suggests that the presidential elections will be no better than those for parliament.
In the first quarter of 2007, the ruling National Democratic Party, or NDP, pushed through amendments on a total of 34 constitutional articles, including an amendment that entailed the abolition of judicial supervision of elections. This prejudicial change came after prominent judges accused the executive authority of falsifying election results in 2005.
The 2007 amendments also included the introduction of an explicit ban on political activity or political parties based on religion or religious authority. This amendment is commonly interpreted as being aimed at the already banned Society of Muslim Brothers, which won 20 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly in the 2005 elections. The ban would undermine its participation in future elections by prohibiting the group from using religious slogans or to deflect possible future moves to establish an official political party. Article 76 of the constitution was also revised to disqualify independent candidates for president and to place various barriers before non-NDP candidates.
Although the state of emergency has been in effect in Egypt for 29 years, casting its shadow on all aspects of political life, one rumored amendment to the constitution is leading to the passage of a counterterrorism law. The sections of the bill leaked thus far indicate that the Egyptian regime is seeking to pass the bill to institutionalize and legalize the state of emergency, which suggests that peaceful political activity in Egypt will be further constrained.