Al-Ahram Weekly Online   27 October - 2 November 2011
Issue No. 1070
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Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Parliamentary mix and match

There is a plethora of candidates old and new as election battle lines are finally being drawn, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

By Monday's 25 October deadline a record number of new faces had registered for Egypt's first post-revolution parliamentary election. Initial estimates suggest between 14,000-15,000 had presented themselves as candidates for the two houses of parliament -- the People's Assembly and Shura Council. Of the total, 8,600 are independents, competing for the third of seats reserved for individual candidates.

The assembly ballot, held under full judicial supervision and comprising three stages, begins on 28 November and ends on 10 January. There are 498 seats up for grabs. An additional 10 MPs will be appointed.

Some 6,600 candidates have registered as independents for the People's Assembly elections. An estimated 2,000 independents have registered for the 180 seats available in the Shura Council poll, set to begin on 29 January and end on 11 March.

The week-long candidate registration period was extended by six days as political parties belonging to the various coalitions struggled to finalise their lists. By 24 October more than 55 political parties had registered candidates, 35 of them licensed after the fall of Mubarak. They have submitted more than 862 lists of party-based candidates to be elected proportionally. The party-based candidates number between 6,000-7,000.

Abdel-Moez Ibrahim, chairman of the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), announced on 22 October that it will take five days to revise candidate lists and examine any appeals filed against them. The final lists of candidates are expected to be announced early next week.

"Once the lists are announced, candidates can begin their election campaigns," said Ibrahim.

As in earlier elections, religious slogans will be banned, as will any campaign funds from overseas.

The commission has placed a LE500,000 ceiling on campaign expenses for independent candidates, and LE1 million for party lists.

The last few hours of registration saw several surprises. Many would-be deputies belonging to revolutionary youth movements and dissent groups opted to register as independents. They include Asmaa Mahfouz, a member of the 6 April Movement, George Ishaq, a founder of the Kifaya (Enough) movement, and Amr Hamzawy, a political analyst and founder of the Egypt Freedom (Misr Al-Horreya) Party.

Mortada Mansour, controversial lawyer and former chairman of the Zamalek sporting club, has registered in the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya despite being tried on charges of conspiring to kill protesters during the 25 January Revolution.

Four alliances dominated the party-based registrations. The Democratic Alliance, led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), also includes the Karama Party, led by presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, and the New Ghad Party led by Ayman Nour.

The FJP is fielding more than 500 candidates, 400 for the People's Assembly and 100 for the Shura Council, standing both as independents and on party lists. Most of the Brotherhood's 88 MPs in the outgoing 2005-2010 People's Assembly have registered, including Sobhi Saleh, tipped to be the next People's Assembly speaker should the FJP win a majority.

The Democratic Alliance's list also includes non-FJP figures such as Al-Ahram political analyst Wahid Abdel-Meguid and former Karama Party MP Saad Abboud.

The Democratic Alliance announced on 25 October that it would not be using the Brotherhood slogan "Islam is the Solution", but "We Bear Good for All of Egypt".

A second alliance groups the Salafist parties Nour and Asala with Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Reconstruction and Development Party. It will field 300 candidates across Egypt.

The Egyptian Bloc, which groups mainly liberal and leftist forces, is expected to be the main competitor against Islamist groups. It includes the Free Egyptians Party, founded by Coptic businessman Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Tagammu Party. Bloc officials say the coalition will field 350 candidates, half of them members of the Free Egyptians, 40 per cent members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the remaining 10 per cent from the Tagammu. Candidates on the Bloc's lists include former MP Mona Makram Ebeid, Al-Ahram political analyst Emad Gad, deputy chairman of the Tagammu Party Samir Fayyad, constitutional law expert Nour Farahat, and Ziad Al-Oleimi, a high-profile figure from the 25 January Revolution.

The Wafd Party, once allied with the FJP, is entering the elections alone. Its chairman, El-Sayed El-Badawi, says the party will field 570 candidates, both as independents and on its party list. The lists include 37 Copts and 87 women.

The Revolution Continues includes the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (an off-shoot of the Tagammu), the Egyptian Socialist Party, Egypt Freedom led by Hamzawy, Equality and Development, the Egyptian Current (a liberal off-shoot of Muslim Brotherhood) and the Revolution Youth Coalition. The alliance will field 286 across 22 governorates.

Former members of Hosni Mubarak's now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) -- dissolved on 16 April, and with many of its most senior members behind bars awaiting trial on charges of corruption and manslaughter -- could well sneak back into the corridors of power. As many as 300 are thought to have registered on the lists of the Horreya (Freedom) and the Egyptian Citizen Parties. A majority of Al-Horreya's NDP candidates are concentrated in Upper Egypt, those of the Egyptian Citizen's in the Delta.

Another NDP off-shoot, the National Egypt Party led by Talaat El-Sadat, is fielding 60 dormer NDP members. A similar number have registered as independents.

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