Andrew Reynolds on Egypt
Andrew Reynolds has a good op-ed in the New York Times on Egypt’s electoral system. Reynolds is one of the world’s top scholars on electoral systems, so I’m happy to see the Times give him space to discuss this topic.
While advising civil society groups and political parties on election issues earlier this year in Cairo, I found that the voices of Egyptians who were at the forefront of the revolution were stifled during the secretive election-planning process.
On countless occasions, political parties went to the ruling military council to object to drafts of the electoral law and were brushed off with piecemeal changes. Civic groups concerned about the representation of women and minorities were not even given a seat at the table. And the United Nations, which played a major role in assisting Tunisia with its election, was denied access to election planners in Cairo.
This is all, true, but I actually disagree with this point:
Unlike in Tunisia, which successfully used a simple across-the-board proportional system to include many voices in the country’s legislative assembly, Egypt’s multilayered system is likely to marginalize new progressive, secular and liberal groups that lack grass-roots networks across the country.
The sidelining of smaller Islamic and secular parties would damage citizens’ faith in the democratic process, and the exclusion of the minority Coptic Christians from significant representation in Parliament could be catastrophic.
As I’ve mentioned, Egypt’s system really favors small parties almost as much as Tunisia’s did. Yes, the nominal tier is a mess, but the list tier of seats is pretty forgiving of party fragmentation. In fact, Egypt’s list tier of seats, at 332 seats, is larger than the entire Tunisian Constituent Assembly, with 217 seats. Average district magnitude is even slightly larger in Egypt. It’s true that liberal and secular parties will be marginalized, but only because of their own actions. You can only blame the system for so much.
That being said, read the article. Also, is you are looking for the best online repository of worldwide ballot samples, check out Reynolds’ collection.