Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1233, (12 - 18 February 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1233, (12 - 18 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Candidates sign up

The first two days of registration in Egypt’s coming parliamentary elections brought several surprises. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Candidates seeking to stand in parliamentary polls began registering on Sunday. The window for registration will remain open until 2 pm on 17 February.

Ayman Abbas, head of the Higher Election Committee (HEC), says the poll will be held in two rounds, beginning on 21-22 March and ending on 6-7 May. A new parliament, the third in five years, could hold its opening session by the end of May.

Political analysts expect a record number of candidates, though the 87-year old Muslim Brotherhood and its allies will be excluded from the process.

On Sunday and Monday, the first two days of registration, 5,300 potential candidates put their names forward, the majority seeking to stand as independents. A study conducted by Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS) in 2012 revealed that the number of candidates in parliamentary elections since the mid-1980s hovered around 3,500 and had never exceeded 4,500.

The 2011-2012 election, which allowed a mix of independent and party list candidates, was the exception. A total of 10,251 parliamentary hopefuls stood, 4,200 of them on party tickets.

Wafd Party official Hossam Al-Khouli expects this year’s election will see even more candidates battling for a seat in parliament. The Egyptian Wafd, the electoral coalition comprising eight political parties headed by the Wafd Party, is planning to field more than 400 candidates. Alliance members are taking part in a round of intense meetings to hammer out a final list that Al-Khouli expects to be completed “within days.”

The Congress Party, founded by Amr Moussa, Tagammu and Al-Ghad parties threw in their lot with the Egyptian Wafd last week. There are reports that the Adl (Justice) Party is also planning to join the coalition.

The forthcoming parliament will have 567 seats: 420 reserved for independents, 120 for party-based MPs and 27 seats for presidential appointees.

The Egyptian Front, an electoral coalition including former officials of Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), says it will field more than 400 candidates. The Nour Party and Free Egyptians Party have also indicated they will be contesting every constituency.

The position of leftist and liberal revolutionary forces that opposed the regimes of both Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood remains unclear. Grouped in the loose Democratic Current alliance, they are critical of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who they say has adopted Mubarak-style authoritarian policies.

On 7 February the Constitution Party, founded by former ex-UN diplomat Mohamed Al-Baradie, and the Socialist Alliance, founded by Hamdeen Sabahi, announced that they would not contest the polls in light of the government’s failure to release protestors detained under the protest law and amend the controversial anti-protest legislation.

Al-Ahram political analyst Hassan Abu Taleb is dismissive of the cited reasons. The boycott, he claims, shows “a fear from competition.”

“The reasons cited by these forces as grounds for boycotting the polls are illogical,” he claims. “The real reason they are not taking part is they lack credible candidates and do not want to be exposed as being unpopular and weak.”

Other leftist and liberal revolutionary forces have announced they will contest the polls. They include the Social Justice and the 25 January-30 June coalitions, both of which say they will field more than 300 candidates.

The first two days of registration brought a number of surprises. The political career of Mubarak-era prime minister Kamal Al-Ganzouri appears to have ended. According to Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, a former intelligence officer and chairman of the Gomhouria Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, public figures who it was once assumed would appear on the list of candidates Al-Ganzouri was trying to compile decided to form their own list.

“The new list, under the banner ‘For the Love of Egypt,’ will include high-profile figures who were never part of the Mubarak regime,” says Al-Yazal.

In a meeting with Al-Sisi last month, secular political forces complained about the involvement of such a senior Mubarak-era official in the electoral process.

The biggest surprise, however, came on the first day of registration when business tycoon Ahmed Ezz, a close associate of Gamal Mubarak, submitted his papers to stand. Ezz’s lawyer, Mohamed Hammouda, says Ezz is seeking to stand as an independent in Sadat City.

Ezz was released from prison in August on bail of LE150 million and faces a number of outstanding corruption charges. He and Gamal Mubarak were accused of manipulating the 2010 parliamentary elections, which saw the NDP win 98 per cent of seats.

Ezz’s wife, Shahinaz Al-Naggar, is seeking to run in Cairo. Al-Naggar, a businesswoman who won a seat in the 2005 election before marrying the steel tycoon, resigned from parliament at Ezz’s request.

Film director Khaled Youssef also submitted his registration. A left-leaning political activist, Youssef hopes to stand as an independent in Benha, capital of the Delta governorate of Qalioubiya.

Taher Abu Zeid, a former minister of sport, is seeking to stand as an independent in the North Cairo district of Al-Wayli; Sameh Ashour, chairman of the Syndicate of Lawyers, aims to run in South Cairo district of Al-Moqattam; former independent MP Ragab Hilal Hemeida hopes to win in Abdeen and Hafez Abu Saeda, chairman of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), is seeking to stand in Al-Manyal.

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party and a nephew of Anwar Al-Sadat, has applied to run in Tala, a Menoufiya constituency.

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