Egyptian secularists and rights groups criticized election laws approved by parliament that allow parties to use religious slogans in campaigns and drops a requirement to put women candidates high on their lists. The Islamist-led Shura Council, the upper house of parliament and the only one functioning after courts shut down the lower chamber, yesterday approved a political rights law that dropped a ban on religious slogans. It was replaced by a clause that prohibits slogans involving “gender and religious discrimination.” The council also gave initial approval for amendments to election laws that could give women lower positions on electoral lists. The assembly’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee agreed that each candidate list should include at least one woman, without stipulating how high she should be placed. The previous version required at least one female candidate in the top half of the list.
The changes may add ammunition to critics of President Mohamed Mursi who say he’s seeking to impose an Islamist agenda on Egypt and subject women to religiously motivated restrictions. Protests against Mursi, who is from the Muslim Brotherhood, have frequently turned violent in recent months, especially after he pushed an Islamist-drafted constitution through a referendum in December.
“Allowing religious slogans in campaigns will have disastrous effects and will deepen the current political polarization,” said Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer, in a phone interview. “This is a cheap attempt by the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood to take the political battle in a religious direction.”