North Korea is holding parliamentary elections. Well, sort of. Three days ahead of Sunday’s vote, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland looks set to complete yet another clean sweep of the 687-seat Supreme People’s Assembly. But maintaining their unanimous hold on parliament shouldn’t be challenging: There are no opposition parties on the ballot. The Democratic Front, the governing coalition led by Kim Jong Un’s ruling Workers’ Party, has handpicked one — and only one — candidate for each district. It’s nearly impossible to determine which individuals and institutions hold real power within the secretive North Korean government, but one thing is clear: The Supreme People’s Assembly is not one of them. Parliamentary elections, which are held every five years, are little more than a progranda excercise for a regime ruled by its despotic dictatorship at the top. Still, the North Korean government remains determined to uphold at least the appearance of democratic legitimacy. On Wednesday, the state news agency KCNA reported that election preparations were “gaining momentum.” “Agitation activities are going on to encourage citizens to take active part in the election with high political enthusiasm and labour feats, amid the playing of ‘Song of the election.'” Let the horserace begin.
On March 8, virtually all North Korean adults will be expected (or rather required) to come to their local polling station in order to partake in the elections of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), the North Korean parliament.The ritual has been repeated every four or five years and hence is quite predictable. First, the voters form remarkably orderly cues, and upon entering the station they will make a deep bow to the portraits of the Leaders from the Kim family which has been running the country for almost 70 years. Having completed this important ritual, they will be issued ballot papers, whereupon they will proceed to a voting box. The ballot will have only one candidate, even though the voter has the theoretical option of voting against the candidate. If the North Korean media is to be believed, not a single person nationwide has exercised this theoretical right. The picture described above is quite typical of Stalinist electoral systems. First created in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, this pattern was then copied across the socialist bloc. The standout feature of this system was the non-competitive nature of the elections. There was only one candidate in every electoral district, thus the success of a given candidate was preordained. The party bureaucracy decided the names of the candidates well before the elections were held.
North Korea, accused of human rights violations, elects its largely symbolic parliament this weekend, with leader Kim Jong-un, the third in his family dynasty to rule the totalitarian state, running unopposed in a legendary mountain district. State news agency KCNA said on Thursday that election preparations were “gaining momentum”, with voters confirming their names on electoral lists for the ballot held every five years. “Agitation activities are going on to encourage citizens to take active part in the election with high political enthusiasm and labour feats, amid the playing of ‘Song of the election’,” KCNA reported. North Koreans, it said, sought to “demonstrate once again the might of single-minded unity by casting ballots for their candidates”.
In a plenary session Sunday, the Islamist-led upper house of Egypt’s parliament, the Shura Council, currently endowed with legislative powers, approved that the House of Representatives — Egypt’s lower house parliament and formerly named the People’s Assembly — be increased by 42 seats, from 546 to 588. According to Hatem Bagato, the newly-appointed minister for parliamentary affairs, the increase was necessary to align to the orders of the High Constitutional Court (HCC) that stated there must be fair representation of citizens in the upcoming parliament. “The [HCC], in a report to Shura Council on 25 May, said the distribution of seats in the upcoming parliament was not made fair for seven governorates by the House law,” said Bagato, adding that “as a result, each of these seven governorates will be increased by six seats, [adding] a total of 42 seats.”
Egypt: Draft electoral laws contradict Egypt’s national charter: Constitutional Court | Ahram Online
Hopes for holding Egypt’s parliamentary elections this summer have become dim in recent days. On Monday, the High Constitutional Court (HCC) took the Islamist-led Shura Council (the upper house of Egypt’s parliament) aback by deciding that as many as ten articles of two draft laws regulating parliamentary polls run counter to the newly-approved constitution. The HCC decision has thrown a wrench into the legal ratification process and could complicate the process of conducting parliamentary elections this summer. The Shura Council must meet again to debate the HCC ruling, amend the laws and then refer them back to the HCC. “This must be completed in one week or before 23 February,” said Mohamed Mohieddin, an appointed Shura Council member representing the liberal Ghad Al-Thawra Party.
The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commision (SPEC) announced on Tuesday that it would hold an emergency meeting later today to discuss ways of implementing the newly ratified Disenfranchisement Law. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) ratified late Monday the Disenfranchisement Law (officially called the Corrupting of Political Life Law), and sent it for a final vote to Parliament. An official statement was issued in the state newspaper, Al-Gareeda Al-Rasmeya on Tuesday, thus allowing for the immediate implementation of the law. The law, which was discussed and approved last week by the People’s Assembly, places limits on the political rights of certain citizens.
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) rejected on Saturday the military council request to determine the constitutionality of the drafted Disenfranchisement Law before proposed legislation becomes law. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had referred the proposed Disenfranchisement Law to the SCC on Thursday. The draft legislation, which was approved last week by the People’s Assembly, stipulates that those who were part of Hosni Mubarak’s government during the five years prior to 11 February 2011 would not be eligible to enter the presidential race or hold public office for ten years. The SCC said it has no legal jurisdiction over draft legislations that have not yet been approved by the SCAF. It added that the Disenfranchisement Law must be enacted first before it could issue any rulings on constitutionality.
The People’s Assembly (the lower house of Egypt’s parliament) devoted a special session on Wednesday afternoon to discussing proposed legislation aimed at prohibiting figures associated with ousted president Hosni Mubarak from contesting upcoming presidential elections. The assembly reportedly decided to convene after several MPs expressed fears that the bill, drafted by the moderate-Islamist Wasat Party, might be ruled unconstitutional. “The problem is that the bill contradicts Article 26 of the constitutional declaration [issued in March of last year by the ruling military council and approved via popular referendum], which does not set any conditions on the presidency,” said Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mohamed Attia. “Once the law is passed by the assembly, it must be scrutinised by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) to determine its constitutionality.” Echoing the opinion of most MPs, Attia added that “any undue haste in passing the law will make people think it was tailored to serve the needs of a particular group or to prevent a particular person from contesting the presidency.”
Security forces stepped up their presence outside polling stations Wednesday for the third round of People’s Assembly elections, after monitors said supporters of various candidates seemed likely to clash. Monitors said the increase in security presence began last night and continued into Wednesday.
Polling stations in nine governorates opened at 8 am for the second day in the final round of voting. The nine governorates included in this round are Qalyubiya, Gharbiya, Daqahlia, North Sinai, South Sinai, Minya, Matrouh, Qena and New Valley.
Police and military officials made several statements about the heightened security measures taken after fighting and bickering took place outside polling stations in Daqahlia and Qena governorates. Security forces also prevented clashes between Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Nour Party supporters at polling stations in Daqahlia.
Tuesday is shaping up to be a big day in the world of politics. In Iowa, Republican caucus-goers officially kick off the 2012 presidential election cycle at 1,774 precincts across the state. In Egypt, voters in nine of the country’s 27 governorates head to the polls in the third and final round of elections for the first People’s Assembly to convene since last winter’s revolution.
At first glance, the contests couldn’t be more different. Egyptian voters will cast their ballots against a backdrop of continuing political instability and a volatile security environment. In Iowa’s gymnasiums, libraries, and churches, the greatest disruptions might well come from a handful of rowdy Ron Paul supporters.
But dig a little deeper, and one finds some uncanny parallels. If democracy really is God’s gift to the world, He’s infused it everywhere with His own quirky sense of humor. Here are a few to look out for as the first voting of the new year gets underway.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was leading in initial, partial results from Egypt’s parliamentary elections but it was facing stiff competition in many places both from more hard-line Islamic groups and from a liberal-secular alliance, judges overseeing counting said Wednesday. The trend from results so far mirrored expectations that the Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful fundamentalist group, would make the strongest showing in the first parliament elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
Still, it was too early to extrapolate whether their victory was bigger or smaller than expected, with counting still continuing from the first round of voting, which took place on Monday and Tuesday. The Brotherhood had the biggest share of votes in the capital Cairo and the country’s second biggest city, Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast, as well as the southern city of Luxor, Port Said on the Suez Canal, and Kafr el-Sheikh, a major city in the Nile Delta, according to judges in each area.
A massive election turnout in this largely conservative Muslim coastal city has contributed to what many are estimating to be a sweeping victory by Egypt’s Islamist parties in the country’s first democratic elections this week.
The voting, which began Monday in the country’s largest metropolitan areas and continues into January, will decide the makeup of the country’s first elected parliament since the ouster of strongman Hosni Mubarak. The newly-elected body will be empowered to craft a new constitution.
The Higher Elections Committee discussed on Sunday the candidacy process set to start on December 12, and the measures taken to guarantee honest, democratic elections according to the elections law issued by legislative decree No. 101 for 2011. The committee decided to direct the sub-committees in the Syrian provinces to fully supervise candidacy applications, stressing the implementation of article No. 20 of the elections law which grants the right to run for the People’s Assembly and the local councils according to the standards provided by the new elections law.
The committee requested that the sub-committees should cooperate and coordinate with demonstrative apparatuses according to law to offer all facilitations for supervision to guarantee democratic and honest elections. The Higher Committee also requested that authorities set up electronic screens in the squares of all provinces to display the counting of votes to preserve the transparency and honesty of elections.