Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Political parties in disarray

Days ahead of the announcement of the dates of parliamentary elections, secular parties are in danger of falling apart. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Higher Elections Committee (HEC), the seven-member judicial body in charge of supervising parliamentary polls, said on Sunday that it will announce a timetable for the vote by the end of this month.

“HEC Chairman Ayman Abbas will announce the timetable at a press conference held in the headquarters of the State Information Service (SIS) at the end of this month,” HEC spokesperson Omar Marawan told reporters.

“HEC’s decision to announce a timetable signals the first phase of preparations for the vote has been concluded. Laws necessary to hold the poll have now been ratified, and the process of issuing permits for civil society organisations and media outlets seeking to cover the polls, updating national voter lists and finalising the lists of judges who will be in charge of supervising the election process in Egypt’s 27 governorates is almost complete.”

Marawan disclosed that the HEC had accepted requests to cover the poll from 44 press organisations, 13 news websites and 768 foreign reporters.

Six foreign and 81 local NGOs have been given permits to cover the election. That number is likely to rise since the window for applications remains open until the end of August.

Plans to hold parliamentary elections in March were scuppered when the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled two elections laws unconstitutional.

As well as announcing a timetable for the vote the HEC will also make public details of the candidate registration process, including the documentation that needs to be submitted and health checks required, during the press conference.

Informed sources say the elections are likely to be held in two stages and could take up to two months to complete.

Political parties have welcomed the announcement that a timetable will be in place by the end of this month.

“The news will force political parties to focus on selecting candidates and allocate a budget for the campaign,” says Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party.

Al-Sadat believes the next parliament will be the most important in Egypt’s modern history.

“It will convene after two revolutions that have rocked the country and a new constitution has been passed granting parliament greater powers,” he says.

Tagammu Party spokesperson Nabil Zaki wants the HEC to use the press conference to specify how it will police the election and ensure candidates abide by the rules.

“The HEC must highlight how it will oblige candidates to adhere to the regulations and prevent them from raising religious slogans, using places of worship for campaign purposes and keep within the ceilings set for campaign spending.”

“The announcement of a timetable at the end of this month means that the first stage of the vote will probably begin early October, after the Eid Al-Adha feast,” says Mustafa Bakri, editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Osbou.

“Secular political parties need to hurry up and forge electoral coalitions capable of seats.”

According to Bakri leaders of the two major coalitions — For the Love of Egypt and the Egyptian Front — are already planning to join forces in a single alliance.

Political analyst Emad Gad warns that divisions within non-Islamist political parties are likely to impact negatively on their performance in the poll.

“Not only are these parties prey to internal power struggles they also face severe funding shortfalls,” says Gad. “They will be on the back-foot when faced with a united force like the Salafist Nour party, or wealthy businessmen standing as independent candidates.”

“The only way to ensure secular forces have the upper hand in the coming parliament,” says Gad, is for the Egyptian Front and For the Love of Egypt to conclude a workable alliance.

Several political parties are mired in internal conflict ahead of the poll.

The Wafd Party is split into two warring factions, one led by Chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, the second by lawyer Fouad Badrawi, grandson of the late party leader Fouad Seraggeddin.

While the higher committee of Al-Dostour finally accepted the resignation of party head Hala Shukrallah this week, elections for a new chair have been indefinitely delayed. Shukrallah cited internal divisions in the party as her reason of quitting. Informed sources say disputes over whether to boycott or participate in the upcoming parliamentary polls lie behind the divisions that are pulling the party apart.

The Congress Party also appeared to be on the verge of collapse this week when Salah Hasaballah, the party’s secretary-general, announced his intention to form a breakaway party, Al-Horreya.

Hasaballah cited “disputes over nominations for parliamentary elections” as the reason for his resignation. The Congress Party was founded by former foreign minister and secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa as a voice for liberal and moderate forces.

Leftist parties appeared to be in better shape than their liberal counterparts. The Popular Socialist Alliance party, led by Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, announced on Sunday that it will join the Reawakening of Egypt electoral coalition in addition to fielding candidates in seats reserved for independents.

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