By Matthew Collum
CAIRO (UTC/ The Loop) — Egypt’s ruling military decreed Tuesday that the country’s first parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster will begin Nov. 28, ending months of speculation on the timing of the key vote but failing to quell disagreement over how it will be run.
The elections for parliament’s two chambers will be staggered over several months, with the vote for the legislative People’s Assembly starting Nov. 28 and the less powerful Shura Council, the chamber’s upper house, on Jan. 29. The first session for the People’s Assembly will be held on March 17. The Shura Council will convene on March 24.
The announcement by the ruling military council, which took over from Mubarak in February, was carried on the state news agency and television.
The new parliament will not end the rule of Egypt’s military. It was decided in advance that the governing military council will remain in charge of the country until a new president is elected. No date has been set yet for the presidential elections.
After Mubarak stepped down in February, the military council promised it would transfer power to civilian rule within six months.
But the transitional period has been complicated by a tug-of-war between the military rulers and Egypt’s new revolutionary groups, who complained the council did little to dismantle Mubarak’s legacy and bring figures of the old regime to account over corruption and other crimes.
They also maintain that the generals have ruled in near total secrecy and without consulting enough on major issues.
The military rulers, in turn, claim some of the youth groups behind the Jan. 25-Feb. 11 uprising received training abroad and unauthorized foreign funding— a claim that discredits the groups in the eyes of many Egyptians.
The election law which regulates how the vote is to be held was itself a subject of a heated dispute between the military and the political forces and revolutionary groups. Many fear the way it has been set up would allow remnants of Mubarak’s old figures and old political parties to dominate the new parliament.
Political parties had asked the military rulers to allow for closed party lists only instead of a mixture of party lists and individual candidates. The logic was to keep old ruling party officials from entering the new parliament and give a boost to young parties created after the uprising.
The military rulers conceded just a little, allowing individual candidates to compete for only a third of the seats.
“They tried to please us, only to mess it up even more,” said Shady el-Ghazali Harb, a protest leader and now a founder of a new party, called al-Waai or Awareness.
He said the new arrangement— a complicated mix — will give the old political players the opportunity to nominate candidates under both formats.
There are still discussions among youth groups on whether to call for a boycott of elections, as the opposition often did under Mubarak. But Harb said there has to be a broad consensus among political groups for such a move.
The political groups also say the military rulers have reneged on an earlier commitment to end Egypt’s emergency laws before the elections. The laws in place since 1981 empower authorities to detain people without charge and curb strikes and protests. A rally is planned this weekend to call for an end to the laws, and some are still pressing for a change to the election law.
The door for nominating candidates opens on Oct. 12.
The last parliamentary election under Mubarak was held in November and December last year, when the ousted leader’s now-dissolved ruling party swept the vote, winning all but a handful of seats in the People’s Assembly.
The vote was widely condemned as the most fraudulent under Mubarak’s 29-year rule and considered one of the causes behind the 18-day popular uprising that forced him to step down on Feb. 11.
Egyptians went to the polls in March for a nationwide referendum on constitutional amendments. A decent turnout of more than 40 percent and the absence of any serious instances of fraud led many to declare it Egypt’s cleanest vote in living memory.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.