Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Moving towards the vote

Preparations for parliamentary elections continue apace. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The Higher Election Committee (HEC) has set February 1 as the deadline for applications by media organisations seeking to cover parliamentary polls. The vote is scheduled to be held between the 21 March and 7 May.

HEC’s deadline was announced days after the opening of the registration window for local and foreign NGOs seeking to monitor the vote. That deadline ended on 21 January, by which time 63 local NGOs had applied for permits. They include the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and Ibn Khaldoun Centre for Development Studies.

Applications from five international NGOs — US-based Democracy International, Norwegian-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), Swiss-based International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and Geneva-based Mosconi Organisation for Human Rights and Development — were accepted.

HEC Chairman Ayman Abbas said the international applicants “have a proven record in poll monitoring and democracy support and a reputation for impartiality and integrity.”

 The European Parliament and the Carter Centre have both refused to take part in monitoring a vote which they claim will lack competition. Hafez Abu Seada, chairman of EOHR, said, “The problem with the European Parliament and the Carter Centre is that they want the banned Muslim Brotherhood to be integrated into the political process which is an impossible demand.”

The registration date for candidates has not yet been set. There is widespread speculation that the HEC will announce a date by next week.

Political parties say are close to finalising their lists of candidates. Wafd Party spokesman Hossam Al-Khouli said on 26 January that the five-member coalition led by the Wafd will be in a position to present a full list of candidates for party-based and independent seats “within days.”

He said that “consultations between the Wafd Party and other secular political forces to forge a broader coalition have almost stalled.” Al-Khouli told Al-Ahram Weekly that a meeting scheduled for 20 January, intended to hammer out “an electoral consensus document” to be signed by all secular political forces, has been indefinitely postponed.

Wafd Party Secretary-General Bahaa Abu Shokaa told parliamentary reporters that the meeting will be delayed until the committee tasked with drafting the consensus document has finished its work. A number of political analysts are busy drafting the document, which will then form the basis of the election platform of its signatory political parties.

“Signatories have to be committed to the goals of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June,” said Abu Shoka.

Amin Radi, deputy chairman of the Congress Party, told reporters that Wafd officials have contacted the heads of political parties to inform them the meeting has been postponed until the document is complete.

Secular political forces first met on 17 January, after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi appealed to them to form a coalition capable of winning a parliamentary majority. The 17 January meeting was attended by representatives from 21 non-Islamist political parties and four electoral coalitions. It ended with participants agreeing to form three committees.

The first, tasked with drafting the platform document, includes Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Al-Shobaki, former minister of social solidarity Ahmed Al-Boraie, independent political analyst Samir Ghattas and Tagammu Party spokesman Nabil Zaki.

A second committee, led by Mohamed Sami, chairman of the Karama party, was mandated to set the criteria governing the selection of national list candidates. The third committee, led by chairman of the Lawyers’ Syndicate, Sameh Ashour, was charged with compiling the final lists of candidates.

Abu Shoka hopes that when it is finished the consensus document will convince more secular political forces to join the coalition. “We hope political forces and high-profile public figures such as Kamal Al-Ganzouri and political activist Abdel-Gelil Mostafa will join the coalition when they see the consensus document, which will spell out overriding national principles,” he said.

Al-Ganzouri, a former prime minister, and Mostafa are currently preparing their own “national lists” of candidates for the parliamentary polls. Al-Ganzouri’s list is supported by old guard forces affiliated with former president Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP).

Mostafa’s supporters include revolutionary leftist and liberal forces antagonistic to the regimes of both Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood. Most revolutionary forces have refused to join a coalition that includes Mubarak-era remnants.

“We cannot join an electoral coalition with politicians who have publicly described the 25 January revolution as a foreign conspiracy,” said Medhat Al-Zahed, deputy chairman of the Popular Current. Al-Zahed did, however, tell Al-Ahram Weekly, “We could have second thoughts on joining the Wafd’s proposed national lists if Mubarak-era officials are excluded.”

“While ideological differences between secular forces are perhaps too wide to be bridged, the situation is not helped by some politicians placing personal political interests above unity among all secular forces,” complained Ashour. The chairman of the Lawyers’ Syndicate has announced that he will stand as an independent in the south Cairo district of Al-Moqattam.

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