AMY GOODMAN: As we turn now for an update on recent developments in Egypt with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous. Over the weekend, Egyptian political parties dropped a threat to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections, the first multi-candidate vote since the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak. The parties agreed to take part in the vote after Egypt’s ruling military council vowed to amend a voting law that would have made it easier for former Mubarak allies to return to government. But, the military council’s shift fell short of ongoing demands by opposition activists for an end to military trials of civilians and the lifting of 30-year old emergency laws. Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous has been in Egypt covering the revolution since it began in January. And he’s here with me in studio, just before he heads back to Cairo today. His articles and videos are available at his website, egyptreports.net. And we link to it as well at democracynow.org. Welcome Sharif.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about this very significant election law issue.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well Amy, 13 political groups met with the military council over the weekend and they signed on to this elections law, which basically puts in place the first multi-party elections in Egypt. But there’s been an outcry over these parties signing this elections law, for a number of reasons. One is, is that it does not lift the state of emergency in Egypt that has been in place for over 30 years. The law that was signed on means that they will review the elections law. This is one of the key demands of the revolution and part of the reason this took place January 25 was this emergency law. Another issue is that it does not ban former members of the National Democratic Party from participating in elections. This was a key demand of many political groups. And the way the elections are set up right now is that, this is for parliament, two-thirds of the parliament will be chosen by list-based candidacies. What that means is you go to the poll and you’ll vote for a political party. A third will be individual based. So, you you’ll go and vote for a specific candidate. What political parties and many activists have been calling for is a 100-based list base.
So, all of the seats will be voted on by just voting for a political party, because what people are afraid of, is that these individual candidates, former members of the National Democratic Party, powerful businessmen, will be able to run in these seats and win, because we haven’t had a lot of time to organize for these elections. And, there’s a lot of new groups and new candidates that are coming out. But as it stands right now, the elections are set up in... We have two houses of parliament in Egypt, one called the People’s Assembly, and they will start voting in November in three stages that ends in December. The upper house of parliament is called the Shura Council. That will begin in January and end in March. Parliament will convene in March. This is how everything stands now. And they will appoint, somehow, a body that will write the constitution. This body has up to a year to write this constitution, which will then be put to a national referendum. After that’s passed, the next day presidential candidates can be nominated and begin campaigning. So this actually, we may have the military council being the ultimate ruling power in the country through 2013.