Monday,12 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)
Monday,12 November, 2018
Issue 1229, (15 -21 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Two-stage elections

The dates of the long-delayed parliamentary election have been announced. Gamal Essam Al-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Higher Election Committee (HEC) has announced that parliamentary polls will be held between 21 March and 7 May.

In a press conference on 8 January HEC head Ayman Abbas revealed the polls will be held in two stages. “The first stage,” said Abbas, “will include 14 governorates and the second stage the remaining 13 governorates.”

It is the first time parliamentary elections will be staggered over two stages, says Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie.

“In 2000 President Hosni Mubarak was forced by judicial rulings to hold three-stage polls. In 2007 he changed the constitution so polls were no longer held under full judicial supervision. The move was an attempt to help the ruling National Democratic Party, led at the time by Mubarak’s younger son Gamal, monopolise parliament.”

The decision to have a two-stage poll was made for electoral rather than for security reasons, says Rabie.

“The new election law creates four constituencies that will elect 120 party-based deputies. Two of these constituencies will vote in the first stage, one returning 45 deputies and the second 15, and two in the second stage.”

Expatriate Egyptians will open the voting on 21 March. The following day Egyptians will go to the polls to elect a total of 271 deputies from 14 governorates, 60 from party lists and 211 independents.

The second stage, says Rabie, begins on 25 April for expats and on 26 April for voters in Egypt and will see 269 deputies elected from 13 governorates, 60 from party lists and 209 independents.

Cairo will go to the polls in the second stage, as will North Sinai, Egypt’s most troublesome governorate in terms of security conditions.

“Army and police officials, in consultation with the HEC, decided to leave potential hotspots like Cairo and North Sinai to the final stage,” notes Rabie.

The first stage of the polls includes the governorates of Luxor, Aswan, the New Valley, the Red Sea and Marsa Matruh — “border governorates with a limited number of registered voters and minimal security concerns,” says Rabie. It also includes Giza, Minya, Assiut, Fayoum and Beni Suef, Alexandria, Beheira, Sohag and Qena.

In addition to Cairo, the second stage will include the most heavily populated governorates in the Nile delta — Qalioubiya, Menoufiya, Daqahliyya, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Damietta and Kafr Al-Sheikh — and the canal governorates of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said, and North and South Sinai.

The HEC press conference on 8 January did not set a date for candidate registration.

“For now,” said Abbas, the committee decided it was enough to announce the timing of the polls. The dates and rules for registration will be announced in less than a month.”

Political parties were taken aback by the HEC’s failure to outline a complete timetable for the vote.

“This is the first time an election timetable has been announced without the dates for registration and campaigning being set,” said former Wafd Party MP Mohamed Abdel-Alim. “It seems strange for the HEC to announce a part of the timetable, and promise to announce the rest at some later date.”

Nabil Zaki, spokesperson for the leftist Tagammu party, speculated that the HEC’s fsilure to provide a registration date could mean the committee still has to coordinate with state authorities on the dates. As a result, he adds, political parties will delay announcing lists of candidates.

Other political parties were less concerned about the anomaly.

“Knowing the registration date early is good but not crucial,” says Salah Hasaballah, deputy chairman of the Congress Party. “We have 70 days to prepare for the first polling day, which is ample time.”

Mostafa Bakri, spokesman for the Egyptian Front electoral coalition, told Al-Ahram Weekly, “The registration date will probably be announced by the HEC within days.” The delay, he said, is because the HEC wants to ensure there are no legal challenges to the timetable.

On 21 December President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi ratified the new electoral constituencies law, eliminating the final obstacle in the way of parliamentary polls.

Political parties had complained that poll procedures were moving at a snail’s pace, and had left them unable to prepare complete lists of candidates.

The House of Representatives Law specifies that parliament contain 567 seats. In addition to 420 independent and 120 party-based deputies there will be 27 presidential appointees.

Wagih Shehab, media spokesman for the Free Egyptians Party, told the Weekly delays in preparing candidate lists was a result of slow progress in finalising the new electoral constituencies law. “Political parties had to see a map of electoral districts before they could allocate candidates to stand,” said Shehab.

The Free Egyptians Party, he added, had drawn up 60 per cent of its list of candidates. “We have also prepared a detailed programme that we hope will be able attractive enough to persuade voters to cast their ballots for the party.”

The Egyptian Wafd and the Egyptian Front alliances both say 80 per cent of their candidates have now been selected. The Wafd-led alliance includes four liberal and one leftist political party while the Egyptian Front is made up of groups with links to former president Hosni Mubarak’s defunct National Democratic Party (NDP).

The polls are expected to be a tough test for political forces that emerged in opposition to the regimes of Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi. Most of these nascent parties lack funds and candidates with strong tribal or family links in rural constituencies.

On 5 January the Popular Current, led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, announced it would not be fielding candidates in the parliamentary polls, citing botched election laws and a return to Mubarak-style rule as the reason for its decision. Sources with the party, however, say the Popular Current is facing a financial squeeze and has been unable to coordinate with any of the electoral alliances ahead of the vote.

The Constitution Party, founded by Mohamed Al-Baradie, is working with Abdel-Gelil Mostafa, a former coordinator of the anti-Mubarak Kifaya movement, to prepare a list of candidates to represent revolutionary forces.

Mubarak-era prime minister Kamal Al-Ganzouri is also preparing a list that is expected to contain high-profile public figures. Al-Ganzouri says he will not stand himself but is “preparing a list of candidates who will ensure a powerful parliament emerges.”

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