Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 December 2011
Issue No. 1077
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Islamists consolidate their lead

The second stage of parliamentary elections looks set to replicate the results of the first, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafis' Nour Party secured 65 per cent of seats reserved for party-based candidates in the first round (14 and 15 December) of the second stage of the People's Assembly elections.

Polls were held in nine governorates -- Giza, Beni Sweif, Sohag, Aswan, Menoufiya, Sharqiya, Beheira, Suez and Ismailia. Figures released by the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) show the FJP took 36 per cent of ballots in the first round. The Nour secured 28 per cent of the party-list vote.

In the first stage polls the FJP and Nour won 38 per cent and 24.4 per cent of the vote respectively.

FJP and Nour officials have questioned the SEC's tally. The FJP claims to have captured 39 per cent of the party-list vote and the Salafis more than 30 per cent in the second round.

The combined vote for liberal parties, including the Egyptian Bloc and Wafd Party, was 29.3 per cent.

On 20 December the FJP announced that "47 out of 65 independent candidates have qualified for run-offs" and it expected at least 27 to emerge victorious.

Islamist parties -- the FJP, Nour and Wasat -- have so far gained almost 140 parliamentary seats. The FJP has emerged as the best organised and financed political party in Egypt, closely followed by the Nour.

The FJP-led Democratic Alliance contains 10 other parties. Though the bulk of MPs returned will be from the FJP, 20 per cent are likely to be from the Alliance's junior partners.

SEC chairman Abdel-Moez Ibrahim said voter turnout for the first round of the second stage of elections was 67 per cent.

In a press conference on 18 December Ibrahim told reporters that "army and security forces had shown every respect for judges in charge of supervising the elections". The statement followed complaints from the Judges' Club that some of its members had been mistreated by military police officers. Ibrahim also noted that campaigning in the 48-hour period prior to the poll -- banned by the SEC -- had continued.

Mohamed Anwar Esmat El-Sadat, the nephew of late president Anwar El-Sadat and chairman of the liberal-oriented Reform and Development Party (RDF), was the only independent candidate to win a seat outright in the first round. El-Sadat will now represent Menoufiya's Tala district.

"The results are a vindication after the National Democratic Party (NDP) connived in 2007 to strip me of parliamentary membership," El-Sadat told Al-Ahram Weekly. "They did so when, as an MP, I accused Gamal Mubarak of helping his businessmen cronies to monopolise services at Egyptian ports."

El-Sadat said he was not unduly worried by the Islamists' victories, insisting "secular and liberal opposition MPs will stand firm if there are any attempts to turn Egypt into a religious state."

The two-day run-off stage, which began yesterday, sees 118 independent candidates battling for places in the People's Assembly. They include 47 FJP members and 36 Nour candidates, with the rest divided between the Wafd, Egyptian Bloc, Tagammu and NDP offshoot parties.

The Wafd's performance showed a slight improvement over the first round of the second stage as it secured 15 seats. The Egyptian Bloc, meanwhile, secured just seven per cent of the vote, entitling it to eight seats, bringing its total so far to 22 MPs. The Wafd and the Egyptian Bloc have only four candidates in today's run-off battles.

Another liberal force -- the Reform and Development Party led by Anwar Esmat El-Sadat -- gained five seats.

The Revolution Continues, an alliance of leftist parties, has clinched five seats so far. Offshoots of the disbanded NDP -- the Conservative, Egyptian Citizen, National Egypt and the Democratic Peace Parties -- won 16.8 per cent of the vote. Eleven former NDP MPs also qualified for the run-offs. They include Ali El-Meselhi, a former minister of social solidarity, who faces the FJP's candidate Mohamed Fayad in Sharqiya's Abu Kibir district.

In the second stage's first round NDP veterans fared badly. In Sohag former NDP deputies Ahmed Abu Heggi, a businessman, and police officer Hazem Hamadi, were thought to have a chance of winning but in the end were soundly defeated.

Among former MPs who will be returning to parliament are the Brotherhood's Essam El-Erian and Gamal Heshmat. They will be joined in the People's Assembly by a mixture of old and new faces, including the Nasserist Karama Party's Saad Abboud, constitutional law expert Mohamed Nour Farahat, Wafdist businessman Talaat El-Swidi, former diplomat Saffir Nour, political activist Magda El-Neweishi and Wasat candidate and former national team goalkeeper Nader El-Sayed.

The third -- and final -- stage of the elections begins on 3 and 4 January, with a run-off on 10 and 11 January. It includes Minya, Qena, Qalioubiya, Gharbiya, Daqahliya, North Sinai, South Sinai, Marsa Matrouh and Al-Wadi Al-Gadid. The first meeting of the People's Assembly is scheduled for 17 March, following the completion of Shura Council elections.

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