Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Fighting for a seat

The first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary poll will be held next week. Gamal Essam El-Din focuses on the constituencies tipped to see the most fierce election battles

Al-Ahram Weekly

There are 286 seats up for competition in the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Some 27 million registered voters in 14 governorates will elect 226 independent MPs and 60 from party lists. Polls will open on 18 and 19 October. Expatriate Egyptians cast their votes a day earlier.

The 226 independents will be elected from 103 constituencies, as follows: Giza (37), Fayoum (15), Beni Sweif (14), Minya (25), Assiut (20), the New Valley (4), Sohag (22), Qena (15), Luxor (6), Aswan (8), the Red Sea (4), Beheira (27), Alexandria (25) and Marsa Matruh (4).

The 60 party-based candidates will be returned by two mega-constituencies: Upper Egypt North, Middle and South, which includes eleven governorates, will elect 45 MPs; Nile West Delta, which includes three governorates, will return 15.

In a press conference on Sunday, Omar Marwan, spokesperson of the Higher Election Committee (HEC), said Egyptian expatriates will be allowed to cast their votes Saturday and Sunday at 139 embassies around the world.

Egyptians living in war-torn Syria, Libya, Yemen and Central Africa will not be able to vote.

“Egyptian expatriates will be allowed to vote without having first registered with the relevant embassy,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Hamdi Loza, speaking at the same press conference.

“Any Egyptian abroad needs simply to turn up at the Egyptian Embassy in his or her country of residence to vote,” said Loza. “They can also cast their vote by e-mail or by regular post.”

Estimates of the number of Egyptians living abroad vary between eight and ten million. “Around 70 per cent live in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries, 20 per cent in Europe and North America, and ten in other states,” said Loza.

According to Marwan, “The polls will be covered by 87 local and foreign NGOs, 44 local media organisations and 768 foreign correspondents.”

Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, a political analyst and chairman of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Egypt’s parliamentary elections will attract a great deal of international attention.

“With armed conflicts tearing apart a number of Arab states the international community will watch with close interest parliamentary elections taking place in this part of the world,” he said.

Although the first stage does not include Cairo, where most media attention will be focussed, it is expected to produce a number of fierce battles. Party-based candidates face the toughest struggle in the Nile West Delta constituency where four electoral coalitions are contesting 15 seats. Most analysts believe the constituency’s frontrunners are the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist force contesting the polls, and the pro-Sisi For the Love of Egypt electoral coalition.

The Nour Party’s power base is in the West Delta, which returned many Nour Party MPs in the 2012 parliamentary.

Among the party’s candidates this time around are Ashraf Thabet, deputy speaker of the 2012 parliament; Nour Party Deputy Chairman Ibrahim Mansour and former Nour Party MP Talaat Marzouq. The party’s list also includes two Copts, one from Alexandria and one from Damanhour, and seven women candidates.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition list includes high-profile businessmen such as Mohamed Faragallah, an Alexandria industrialist and chairman of Semouha Sporting Club, and Omar Moselhi, chairman of Alexandria Sporting Club.

Sahar Talaat Mostafa, the sister of former MP and disgraced real estate magnate Hisham Mostafa, is also standing, as are several Mubarak-era NDP MPs. Hisham Mostafa is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence for his part in the 2008 murder of a Lebanese singer.

The last few days of campaigning saw candidates exchanging accusations. The Nour Party has claimed that the For the Love of Egypt coalition is a front for discredited NDP politicians, while For the Love of Egypt campaigners warned voters in Alexandria and Beheira that the Nour Party “is another face of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The contest became even more fractious when the No to Religious Parties campaign organized rallies in Alexandria and Beheira and urged citizens not to vote for the Nour Party.

The battle in Upper Egypt North, Middle and South, where 45 seats are at stake, is less fierce. The four coalitions competing — For the Love of Egypt, Independence Current and Egyptian Front Alliance, Call of Egypt and Independent National Re-Awakening Bloc — all support President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

The toughest battle between independent candidates is expected in the Giza constituency of Dokki  and Agouza, which will return two MPs. Among the 34 candidates contesting the seats are Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Al-Shobaki; Abdel-Rehim Ali, editor-in-chief of Al-Bawaba News magazine and website; Ahmed Mortada Mansour, the son of the flamboyant chairman of Al-Zamalek sporting club Mortada Mansour; Sayed Gohar, a former NDP MP, and Tarek Al-Malt, a senior official with the Islamist Wassat Party.

While Al-Shobaki and Mansour are seen as moderate liberals, Ali and Gohar are famous for their fiery anti-Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric.

The city of Minya is also the scene of a close race, with 25 independent candidates vying for three seats. They include Bahaa Fikri and Shadi Abu Ela, former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are battling it out with rivals from the Nour, Wafd and Tagammu Parties as well as Mubarak-era NDP MPs.

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