Egypt’s ruling military on Saturday imposed jail terms for bribery and religious sloganeering in an upcoming parliamentary poll, and allowed parties to contest all parliament’s seats after a boycott threat.
The military decree to amend the election law that reserved a third of seats for independents in the November 28 election is a concession to the parties.
The parties, which threatened an election boycott if the military left the law intact, also insist on preventing corrupt politicians from running for office for a decade.
In previous elections, before the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February, the now dissolved ruling party resorted to bribes and hiring thugs to influence the results, according to election monitors.
The military, in charge since Mubarak’s overthrow, also amended a separate political rights law to impose jail terms for campaigners using religious slogans or bribery and violence to sway voters.
And in an apparent bid to boost voter turnout, the amendments to the political rights law, published by the official MENA news agency, also included fines for registered voters who failed to cast their ballots without justification.
The amendments decreed jail sentences of between one and five years for “whoever uses force or threats to prevent people from voting” and “whoever gives or offers another a personal incentive” to vote for a particular candidate.
The three-round parliamentary election will be the first since Mubarak’s resignation on February 11.
Dozens of parties have sprung up since his ouster, including several Islamist parties that are predicted to make gains in the election.
Egyptian law bans parties based on religion, but the Islamists water down their programmes when applying for party status.
The military says it will hand power to a civilian government after a presidential election which has yet to be scheduled.