Egypt votes: The rules and timetable for elections

Three separate elections are ahead for Egypt, beginning Nov. 28 and continuing into next year. First, Egyptians will elect representatives for the People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, followed by elections for the Shura Council, or upper house of parliament. Then presidential elections are expected in 2012.

Uncertain whether military rulers will relinquish power

Protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Nov. 25 demand Egypt's military council hand over power to a civilian government. Voting in parliamentary elections begins Nov. 28. (Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

Three separate elections are ahead for Egypt. The first round of voting begins on Monday, Nov. 28 and continues into next year, according to current plans.

First off, Egyptians will elect representatives for the People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, followed by elections for the Shura Council, or upper house of parliament.

Then presidential elections are expected to take place some time in 2012.

For each house, the first round of voting takes place on three different days, the dates determined by a voter's province. Then a run-off round of voting takes place one week after the first round.

A few weeks after voting for the more significant People's Assembly is completed in early January, voters return to the polls starting January 29 to elect the Shura Council, which plays more of a consultative role.

The council does, however, have a say on legislation that requires altering the constitution as well as on treaties with other countries.

Two-thirds of the members of both houses are elected by proportional representation based on party lists; the remaining third is chosen by a first-past-the-post system, similar to Canada.

Voting take place on 12 days from November to March.

Election timetable

This is the timetable for the two rounds of voting for 498 of the 508 seats in the People's Assembly and then 190 of the 270 members of the Shura Council. The military council appoints the members of both houses that are not elected.

Each province will hold votes on four different days. The first dates are when voters cast their ballots for the People's Assembly (PA) and then the dates for electing the Shura Council (SC).

For each house of parliament there is a first round, followed by a second, or run-off round, a week later.

Making for an even more complicated timetable, not everyone votes on the same days. Provinces are divided into three groups and each grouping votes on different days.

Nov. 28/Dec. 5 PA; Jan. 29/Feb. 5 SC

  • Cairo
  • Fayoum
  • Luxor
  • Port Said
  • Damietta
  • Alexandria
  • Kafr el-Sheikh
  • Assiut
  • Red Sea

Dec. 14/21 PA; Feb. 14/21 SC:

  • Giza
  • Beni Suef
  • Menoufia
  • Eastern
  • Ismailia
  • Suez
  • Lake
  • Sohag
  • Aswan

Jan. 3/10 PA; March 4/11:

  • Minya
  • Qaliubiya
  • Western
  • Dakahlia
  • North Sinai
  • South Sinai
  • New Valley
  • Matruh
  • Qena

Hard to predict

The outcome, which is months away, remains hard to predict. The latest public opinion poll found that half the people who intend to vote had yet to make up their minds.

According to the poll, conducted in October by the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute, just two parties are backed by more than 10 per cent of decided voters.

In the lead, with 36 per cent support, is the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), followed by Al Wafd, a centrist party, with 26 per cent. Compared to the pollsters' previous survey, support is increasing for Al Wafd and falling for the Islamist FJP.

One of the first priorities for the new parliament will be drafting a new constitution.

Role of the military

Following the toppling of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in February, the military council was to play a caretaker role until an elected civilian government could take over.

However, the military has not offered a transparent timetable for that transition, and has suggested it might delay the vote for president until perhaps 2013. It also appears to want the new parliament to assume a subordinate role similar to the situation under Mubarak.

These assumptions, as well as continued human rights violations, were what brought the protests back to Tahrir Square in Cairo these past several days.

For the International Crisis Group, a well-regarded think tank and advocacy group, Egypt's military council was "seeming intent to preserve or even expand the military’s political role and economic prerogatives."

The military continued to say, and possibly believe, that it still enjoyed the support of ordinary Egyptians. Council member Maj-Gen Mukhtar el-Mallah said at a news conference this week that relinquishing power would be "a betrayal of the trust placed in our hands by the people."

However, Mohamed Abdelfattah, a freelance journalist and activist in Egypt and the winner of the 2011 International Press Freedom Award from the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, told CBC Radio's Anna Maria Tremonti on Nov. 24 that the military council has mismanaged the transitional period and, "nothing has changed since Mubarak was ousted."

He added that, "The military is resisting every type of reform at all levels."

Protests again lead to change

As the protests in Cairo and other cities grew larger, the military-appointed civilian cabinet resigned on Nov. 21. The military then agreed to speed up the transition to civilian rule.

The military then reached agreement with the Muslim Brotherhood to appoint a 'technocrat' cabinet but that didn't placate the protesters, either. They are demanding that the interim leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, resign.

They are also demanding that the parliamentary elections be postponed. That is because they were not given a say in the secretive election-planning process, according to American political scientist Andrew Reynolds.

A man carrying an electoral poster walks past electoral banners in Alexandria, Egypt, Nov. 25. (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters )

Reynolds, who was in Egypt earlier this year advising civil society groups and political parties on election issues, argues in a New York Times op-ed that the election rules, "virtually guarantee that the parliament elected will not reflect the votes of the Egyptian people."

Presidential elections promised for first half of 2012

In a concession to protesters, the military council has now said presidential elections will be moved up to the first half of 2012.

Once a new president is in office, the military is supposed to hand over executive power.

The ACPSS poll of 2,400 Egyptians found that in October, only one candidate had more than 10 per cent support: former Secretary General of the Arab League and previously Mubarak's Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa. About 45 per cent of decided voters said they would vote for Moussa.

The pollsters also gave people the option of voting for an "Army Officer" and 14 per cent said that would be their choice.

However, the military has said they will not field a candidate in the presidential election.