Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Apathy resurgent

Voters appear less inclined to cast their ballots than at any time since the 25 January Revolution, writes Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Voting in the long-delayed parliamentary elections is scheduled to begin on 17 October but there is little sign of election fever. Instead, the public appears to have reverted to a state of pre-revolution apathy.

Ahmed Amin, a 30-year-old engineer, is determined not to participate in the poll. “I feel politically frustrated and will not be voting this time round,” says Amin. “I voted in the last two parliamentary elections and both parliaments have been dissolved.

“I voted in the last two constitutional referendums, only for the results of the first to be cancelled. And now there are indirect calls for the current constitution to be amended, less than a year after it was voted on, and those calls are coming from the president himself.”

Hadeer Gamal, 24, complains of voting fatigue. “I won’t be casting my ballot this month because I don’t believe the parliament that will emerge represents a real chance for change,” she says. “I’ve voted in so many elections since the 25 January Revolution and now I’m completely fed up.”

Parliamentary elections are the last step in the three phase political roadmap announced following the removal of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Originally intended to be held before presidential elections, the poll has been repeatedly delayed.

The most recent cancellation was in March this year when the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) ruled that two key election laws — the Division of Electoral Constituencies Law and the House of Representatives Law — were unconstitutional.

The SCC recommended the boundaries of electoral constituencies in 13 governorates be redrawn and ruled that Egyptians with dual nationalities be allowed to stand as parliamentary candidates.

These two laws, as well as the Exercise of Political Rights Law, were amended by a 15-member judicial and legislative committee that was mandated to implement the SCC ruling. The amended legislation was ratified by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on 9 July.

“I know that the polls are scheduled this month but I don’t know the exact date,” Mohamed Hamdi, a 33-year-old engineer, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “To tell you the truth, I’ve lost interest in politics. Most of the candidates appear to be businessmen who were linked to the Mubarak regime.”

On 22 September Al-Ahram reported that of the 5,420 candidates seeking to contest seats, 2,206 were members of the Mubarak-era National Democratic Party (NDP). A further 740 are affiliated to liberal political parties, 500 to leftist forces, and around 350 hailed from Islamist groups.

The remaining 2,150 candidates appear to have no clear political affiliations. Al-Ahram also reported that 45 per cent of candidates are businessmen.

Ahmed Ezzat, a supervisor at a telecommunications store, says he will take part in the vote because he sees it as his “national duty.” Said Ezzat, “We have to complete the third and last stage of the roadmap and finish this transitional phase.”

He added, “I don’t know exactly when the polls start but it is sometime next month.” Ezzat lives in Nasr City, which is included in the second phase of the elections, scheduled for November.

Egyptians abroad go to the polls on 17-18 October. In Egypt, voting begins on 18 and 19 October in 14 governorates: Giza, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Beheira, Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh.

The second stage of the ballot includes the remaining 13 governorates — Cairo, Qalioubiya, Daqahliya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Kafr El-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai. Expatriate Egyptians will vote on 21 and 22 November and voters in Egypt on 22 and 23 November.

Giza resident Mohamed Zidan is in his fifties. He, too, feels obliged to vote and complete the roadmap. “We have to have a parliament to assist the president and assume responsibility for new legislation,” says Zidan.

Zidan is not only unsure who he will be voting for but, like many people, has yet to come to grips with the fiendishly complex voting system.

“I’m waiting for the final couple of days before the elections to decide which candidate I’ll vote for. I think I have to choose one independent and one candidate from a party list, but I don’t really understand the difference between the closed and the proportional electoral lists,” he says.

Voting in the 2015 parliamentary elections will be under a winner-takes-all closed list system. There is no element of proportional representation. Instead, the list that secures 50 per cent of the vote plus one will take all the seats in the four huge constituencies reserved for party lists.

Egypt’s 27 governorates have been divided into four mega-constituencies, two of which will return 45 MPs each, and the remaining two 15 deputies each. The 120 successful party-list candidates will be joined in the House of Representatives by 448 elected independents and 28 presidential appointees.

Nagi Al-Shehabi, head of the Geel Party, predicts that voter awareness of the polling system, and of who stands for what, will increase as the vote gets closer, but he complains that the system is unnecessarily complex. Geel is fielding 35 candidates as independents and 30 spread across electoral lists.

Political analyst Hassan Nafaa expects a low turnout of around 25 per cent of registered voters.

“There is a great deal of frustration among voters. They see candidates who do not represent them,” he says. “Young voters especially are apathetic. They have lost trust in the political process.”

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