Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1232, (5 - 11 February 2015)
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1232, (5 - 11 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Lining up for battle

A record number of candidates are expected to stand in the parliamentary poll. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said parliamentary elections will go ahead despite the escalation in terrorist attacks in Sinai. He was speaking at a meeting with politicians, public figures and senior clerics on Sunday.

Al-Sisi’s announcement came in response to appeals from some political figures for the polls to be delayed in the wake of the spike in terrorist attacks.

Any delay, said Al-Sisi, would be a victory for the terrorists since “the aim of the recent attacks in Sinai is to disrupt parliamentary polls,” the final step in the political roadmap adopted following the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehlab warned this week that although “the nearer we come towards parliamentary elections the greater the possibility of terrorist attacks,” the government refused “to be intimidated.”

In a press conference on 29 January, the Higher Election Committee (HEC) announced that candidates seeking to stand in parliamentary elections can register between 8 and 17 February.

“Registration will begin at 9 am and end at 5 pm, except on 17 February, when the window to register will close at 2 pm,” said HEC head Ayman Abbas.

The first stage of the vote, including 14 governorates, will take place on 21 and 22 March for expatriates and 22 and 23 March for residents. In the event of any run-offs, a second vote will take place on 31 March and 1 April for expats, and 1 and 2 April for residents.

The second stage, in the 13 governorates remaining, is scheduled for 25 and 26 April for expats and 26 and 27 April for residents. Any run-off will take place on 5 and 6 May for expats and 6 and 7 May for residents.

Campaigning for the first stage will be allowed between 26 February and 20 March, and for the second between 3 and 24 April. Final results are expected to be announced on 12 May, meaning that parliament could hold its first session by the end of the month.

The House of Representatives will comprise 567 members, 420 elected as independents and 120 from party-based lists. The remaining 27 seats will be filled by presidential appointees. Egypt has 54 million registered voters.

The 2011 parliamentary polls, the first to be held after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, resulted in an Islamist-dominated parliament. It was dissolved by court order in June 2012 after the elections law was ruled unconstitutional on the grounds it discriminated against independent candidates.

While a majority of political parties is unhappy with the amended election law, particularly the cap on seats allocated to party-based candidates, they have ruled out the possibility of boycotting the polls.

“The first stage, beginning on 21 March, involves 271 seats, 60 reserved for party-based candidates and 211 for independents,” says Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie. “During the second stage, which begins on 25 April, 269 seats will be up for grabs, 60 reserved for party-based candidates and 209 for independents.”

Rabie expects competition to be tough. “The hundreds of candidates existing electoral coalitions are seeking to field in party-based and independent seats are likely to be supplemented by still more standing on lists being prepared by public figures.”

Mubarak-era prime minister Kamal Al-Ganzouri and political activist Abdel-Gelil Mustafa are both compiling their own “national lists of candidates.” Al-Ganzouri’s candidates are widely seen as supportive of Al-Sisi and the state as it existed under Mubarak, while Mustafa’s are drawn from revolutionary forces that opposed the regimes of both Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“When voters go the polls it is likely they will find six or seven electoral lists to choose from,” says Rabie.

Civil society organisations, the National Council for Women (NCW) and General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (GEFTU) among them, have also announced they will join the race. The NCW says it intends to field 120 women candidates.

The Egyptian Wafd, an election alliance led by the Wafd Party, says its efforts to form a coalition of all secular political parties have faltered. Bahaa Abu Shoka, the Wafd Party’s secretary-general, says alliance candidates will contest every seat.

“We will have candidates in every district and still hold out hope for coordination with other electoral coalitions to ensure secular forces emerge as the biggest winners,” says Abu Shoka.

The Egyptian Wafd says it expects to compete most fiercely with the Egyptian Front, an electoral bloc comprising many Mubarak-era figures. According to Egyptian Front spokesman Mustafa Bakri, “More than 400 candidates for independent and party-based seats have already been endorsed” and the bloc intends to stand in every district. In addition, says Bakri, up to 20 Egyptian Front candidates will joint the lists being prepared by Al-Ganzouri.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, has announced it will field 230 candidates in independent seats. Ayman Abul-Ela, chairman of the party’s legislative committee, says the party is also coordinating with Al-Ganzouri and has put forward the names of 20 possible candidates for his list.

The Free Egyptian Party, which trailed the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Nour party in the only parliamentary elections held since Mubarak’s ouster, hopes to improve its performance. “With the Brotherhood designated a terrorist organisation and the Nour Party increasingly isolated we have a golden opportunity to clinch more seats,” says Abul-Ela.

Abul-Ela insists that Al-Ganzouri’s candidates will be drawn from across the political spectrum. “They do all come from Mubarak’s NDP or belong to Al-Sisi’s inner circle, as some European ambassadors try to suggest,” he says.

There are rumours that Al-Ahram political analyst Emad Gad, former female independent MP Margret Azer and Tharwat Bikhit, member of the supreme board of the Free Egyptians Party, will stand as part of Al-Ganzouri’s national list.

The Popular Current, led by Hamdeen Sabahi, says it is still in talks with Abdel-Gelil Mustafa over whether or not to join his “Egypt Reawakening” list.

“I think Mustafa’s list will be the most representative of forces that opposed both the Mubarak and Muslim Brotherhood regimes,” says a leading member of the Popular Current.

The Social Justice coalition, an alliance of left-leaning individuals and groups, says it will field 350 candidates.

“Factions which will opt to boycott the polls,” warns Rabie, “court the possibility of being sidelined for many years to come.”

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