Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Candidates line up to register

Gamal Essam El-Din reports on a busy two days for Egypt’s would-be parliamentarians

Al-Ahram Weekly

Candidates seeking to stand in the parliamentary elections began registering on Tuesday. Registration remains open until 2pm on 12 September.

Ayman Abbas, head of the Higher Election Committee (HEC), told reporters on Sunday the vote will be held in two stages, beginning on 17 October and ending on 2 December. A new parliament, the third in five years, could hold its inaugural session by the second week of December.

An abortive attempt to hold elections in March saw a record number 7,400 candidates registering. Analysts expect even more candidates this time round despite the fact the 87-year old Muslim Brotherhood and many of its Islamist allies will be almost excluded from the process. During the 2012 elections the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies accounted for almost 50 per cent of the candidates.

“Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its defunct political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, cannot register as candidates now the group has been designated a terrorist organisation,” points out Gamal Zahran, a professor of political science at  the Suez Canal University. “Most of the group’s leading officials, including onetime high-profile MPs and former president Mohamed Morsi, have been either arrested or fled the country.”

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi warned last year that “if any of the group’s members are able to infiltrate parliament the people will move to expel them”.

Brotherhood allies such as Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya’s Development and Construction Party, the Fadilla Party and the Asala Party, whose leaders fled to Qatar and Turkey, will also not be able to run. The salafist Nour Party will be the only Islamist force contesting the elections. It is facing a campaign — No to Religious Parties — that seeks to have the party dissolved under article 74 of the constitution which bans political parties based on religion.

Mohamed Abdel-Razek, a senior official at the Ministry of Religious Endowments, says his ministry supports any initiative aimed at preventing religious parties from contesting parliamentary elections.

“The ministry will also invoke its powers to ensure that candidates in the coming parliamentary elections do not raise religious slogans or use places of worship — mosques or churches – for campaign purposes,” says Abdel-Razeq. “We will make sure clerics seeking to stand in the parliamentary elections are prevented from delivering sermons at Friday prayers or delivering religious lectures in mosques throughout the election period.”

The first two days of registration saw 20 imams affiliated with the Ministry of Religious Endowments apply to run in the polls.

HEC spokesperson Omar Marawan said on Tuesday the 7,400 candidates who had applied in March would not be required to submit new documentation or undergo additional health checks.

“All they need to do is fill out the main candidate application paper,” says Marawan. “Even those who were rejected last March now have a second chance to register.”  

Leading members of the Mubarak National Democratic Party (NDP) will also be unable to stand, says  Zahran. “The NDP was officially dissolved and many of its leaders are either banned from exercising their political rights or are facing trial on corruption charges.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the first two days of registration, hundreds of potential candidates put their names forward, the majority seeking to stand as independents.  The early rush, says Marawan, might be explained by the fact those who register first have more of a chance of selecting the election symbols they prefer.

Egypt’s next parliament — the House of Representatives — will comprise 596 seats: 448 reserved for independents (73 per cent), 120 for party-based MPs (22 per cent) and 28 seats (5 per cent) for presidential appointees.

Topping the list of early applicants are Sameh Ashour, chairman of the Lawyers Syndicate; Ragab Hilal Hemeida, a former independent parliamentary deputy and Hussein Megawer, once a leading official in Mubarak’s NDP. Former NDP officials are allowed to run as long as they have not been convicted of corruption or other crimes.

While a majority of political parties are unhappy with the election laws which allocate the vast majority of seats to independent candidates they have ruled out the possibility of boycotting the poll. Political parties, however, complain the poll timetable is long and cumbersome.

Emad Gad, a political analyst and official with the For the Love of Egypt electoral coalition, says “the election process will be exhausting because it will continue for three months, placing a heavy burden on candidates and security forces.”

“The HEC’s press conference, during which the timetable was announced, included no details that might guarantee the polls are held in a free and fair climate,” says Mohamed Abdel-Alim Dawoud, deputy chairman of the Wafd Party.

Yet Abbas insists “the HEC has taken all the measures necessary to guarantee that the election process is marked by integrity, equality and respect for the will of the voters.”

Abbas also says the vote will be the last poll supervised by the HEC.

“Under the new constitution the HEC will be replaced by a National Election Commission (NEC) that will oversee all future polls and referendums.”

Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party, finds it remarkable that “while the legislative amendments paving the way to the polls took  forever, the HEC decided to start registration just two days after its press conference”.

The result, says Al-Sadat, is that “new candidates will find themselves in a rush to finalise their registration papers”.

According to the HEC’s timetable an initial list of candidates will be announced on 13 September.  

Candidates who are rejected can file appeals with the HEC between 13-15 September. The HEC will give a final say on appeals within five days.

A final list of the candidates for the first round of the vote, which includes 14 governorates, is due to be announced on 28 September and campaigning in the first round will take place between 28 September and 15 October.

Governorates that go to the polls in the first stage of the vote are Giza, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Al-Minya, Assuit, the Red Sea, the New Valley, Sohag, Luxor, Qena, Aswan, Alexandria, Marsa Matrouh and Al-Beheira.

World parliaments reject Brotherhood request

GAMAL Hishmat, speaker of the Muslim Brotherhood’s shadow parliament, says it has asked the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) not to recognise Egypt’s parliamentary elections, reports Gamal Essam El-Din.

In a statement to the Kuwaiti News Agency (KUNA) on Monday Marzouk Ali Al-Ghanem, chairman of the Arab Parliamentary Union (APU), welcomed the announcement by Egypt’s Higher Elections Committee of a timetable for parliamentary elections. Al-Ghanem, the speaker of the Kuwaiti National Council, said “parliamentary elections in sisterly Egypt are an important station on the road to democracy”.

Al-Ghanem urged Egyptians to go to the polls and said “all Arabs look forward to following the vote in the Arab world’s biggest country”.

There were reports in the Arabic press this week that Gamal Hishmat, chairman of Muslim Brotherhood’s shadow parliament, had asked the Arab Parliamentary Union (APU) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) not to recognise Egypt’s parliamentary elections which are “being held in the wake of a military coup”.

Several Arab and Egyptian newspapers say Hishmat has asked the APU and IPU to accept the Muslim Brotherhood’s shadow parliament as a member.

In an interview with ikhwanweb, the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hishmat confirmed that he has already contacted the IPU.

“The IPU’s charter makes it clear that the last parliament sitting in countries where a military coup occurs must continue to be recognised,” he said.

“There are many other texts that prohibit the dissolving of a legitimate parliament. All of them support the shadow parliament’s right to membership of the IPU.”

Sources close to the IPU said on Monday that both the IPU and APU had rejected Hishmat’s overtures.

Nabil Deibis, secretary-general of the Organisation of Arab political Parties, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the IPU has rejected a request from the Muslim Brotherhood’s shadow parliament to attend meetings now being held at the UN headquarters in New York”.

Deibis cited IPU secretary-general Martin Chungong as saying the request submitted by Hishmat was rejected because “the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliament has no official character”.

Arab parliamentarians who are members of the Arab Parties Organisation also rejected Hishmat’s request. The statement released by APU speaker Al-Ghanem, says

Deibis, shows clearly that Arabs welcome Egypt’s new parliamentary polls and the Brotherhood’s attempts to cast them in a negative light will end in failure.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s shadow parliament was formed in Turkey in 2013 by former parliamentary deputies who fled Egypt following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. It includes a number of MPs from the 2012 parliament which was dissolved after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled the election laws regulating the 2012 poll were unconstitutional.

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