Monday’s papers: Debate over parliamentary elections law and Mubarak’s trial in session

State-owned Al-Ahram leads with the headline: “The cabinet is set to discuss the possibility of amending the parliamentary elections law the day after tomorrow.”  The government might heed the demands of many political forces to abrogate the article stipulating that farmers and workers should appear on top of all party electoral lists to ensure the 50 percent quota allocated to these two social segments in the constitution, says Al-Ahram.

Many politicians have argued that by keeping them on top of electoral lists, the percentage of farmers and laborers who will make it to parliament might eventually exceed the 50 percent quota. In the meantime, the state-owned paper highlights the disenchantment of political parties with the newly-announced legislation that specified which districts will be up for grabs by individual candidates and which will go to party lists.

Earlier this week, a number of parties, including Egypt Freedom, Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Free Egyptians and Wasat Party, held a meeting to discuss the law mapping out electoral districts. Disenchanted by the legislation, the parties discussed different ways of pressuring the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to amend it either by holding a million-man march, sending a memorandum to the military or boycotting the poll altogether, says Al-Ahram.

Privately-owned independent daily Al-Shorouk dedicates almost a full page to explaining the drawbacks of the military-backed electoral laws. The page leads with: “Politicians open fire on the law mapping electoral districts: It is catastrophic, kills the revolution, serves the Muslim Brotherhood and the remnants of the old regime, and depends on money and thuggery.” The paper quotes former parliamentarian Farid Zahran as alleging that the new legislation was drafted by three former members of the disbanded National Democratic Party. They all work as experts with Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, added Zahran.

In the meantime, Al-Akhbar says that the Muslim Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance for Egypt is expected to announce its list of candidates next week. The paper quotes Saad al-Katatny, secretary general of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, as saying that the majority of the coalition candidates will come from his party and the Wafd Party, given their political weight in the alliance.

Al-Tahrir newspaper reports that the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition might come up with its own list of candidates ahead of the parliamentary poll slated for November. The coalition is currently discussing whether to engage in the race independently or to form alliances with other political parties, says Al-Tahrir. It is also laying out the broad lines of its electoral platform, which is expected to emphasize the revolution's objectives, including social justice, fixing a minimum wage and improving public services, according to the privately-owned paper.

In the meantime, Al-Tahrir quotes Amr Salah, a coalition member, as saying that his group is trying to build a large electoral alliance that can heed the demands of the revolutionary youths, especially as traditional political forces have ignored them in their selection of candidates.

Apart from elections, the front pages of most newspapers highlight stories voicing speculation on the outcome of the third hearing of Hosni Mubarak’s trial, which is taking place today in Cairo. Mubarak, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six of his aides are accused of killing protesters. Al-Wafd newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Wafd Party, leads with a story saying that one of the victims’ lawyers is expected to accuse General Hussein Said Mohamed Moussa, head of the communications department of the Central Security Forces and one of the witnesses, of destroying evidence by erasing 22 phone calls that were originally recorded on CDs.

In the meantime, Al-Ahram says that the defense lawyers are expected to reiterate their demand that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, former Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy and current Interior Minister Mansour al-Essawy be summoned to testify.

Al-Shorouk's opinion page leads with a poignant column by Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, a political science professor, titled: “State institutions that did not hear about January revolution … the case of the Supreme Universities Council [SUC].” Sayed’s column comments on the ongoing tension between university professors and the SUC, which resists a genuine reform of the methods by which university presidents and deans are selected.

Sayed dismisses the council's attempts to circumvent the demands of 84 percent of university professors that holders of top academic positions be elected in direct and transparent polls.

“Why is the SUC acting this way? The answer is simple. University presidents and the SUC members who were appointed by the ousted president have inherited from the latter his disconnection from reality,” writes Sayed, insisting that all university leaders who were appointed by Mubarak’s regime should be removed.

“This is a necessity because all of them engaged in corrupt practices by glorifying senior officials of the former regime, participating or turning a blind eye to vote rigging in student union polls…” he writes.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Youm7: Daily, privately owned
Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

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