Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1267, (22 - 28 October 2015)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1267, (22 - 28 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Reading between the polls

Preliminary reports from the first stage of the parliamentary elections suggest a landslide victory for the pro-Sisi coalition, writes 
Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

Semi-official results of the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections suggest the For the Love of Egypt electoral coalition has emerged victorious, trouncing the Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist force contesting the polls.

Observers attending the vote-count on Monday night confirmed For the Love of Egypt had won the two constituencies reserved for party-based candidates in the first stage: Nile West Delta with 15 seats and North, Middle and South Upper Egypt with 45 seats.

The Higher Election Committee (HEC) is expected to announce the final results of the first stage vote today.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition, widely believed to be supported by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, comprises some of Egypt’s oldest and most active political forces, including the Wafd and the Free Egyptians parties, headed by business tycoons Al-Sayed Al-Badawi and Naguib Sawiris. It includes high-profile businessmen, former cabinet ministers, former provincial governors, journalists, political analysts, former judges, and retired army and police officers.

The Nour Party not only failed to win the party list constituency — the Nile West Delta — which it chose to contest in the first stage, reports suggest none of its 160 candidates standing as independents secured a first round victory.

Salah Eissa, editor of the weekly Al-Qahira newspaper, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “if confirmed by HEC, the initial results mean political Islam has been dealt a second defeat in as many years”.

The Nour Party’s defeat contrasts sharply with its strong performance in the 2011 parliamentary elections when it came second to the Muslim Brotherhood in terms of votes and seats.

Supporters of the party — especially in its power base in Alexandria and Beheira — were shocked by the results.

Salah Abdel-Maboud, a senior party official, used his Facebook account to urge party members not to be distracted by the results and “instead let us hope there will be good news from God at the end”.

Eissa believes the “No for the Religious Parties” campaign was instrumental in isolating the Salafist party, especially in Alexandria.

“It is not just isolation for the Nour Party but for political Islam as a whole,” said Eissa.

Mohamed Othman, the “No for the Religious Parties” campaign spokesperson, told the media that the results show that “the tide against political Islam in Egypt has reached its climax.

“The campaign’s next move will be directed at dissolving the Nour Party in accordance with Article 74 of the constitution which bans the formation of political parties based on religious foundations,” said Othman.  

Officials from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies appeared delighted by the Nour Party’s humiliating defeat.

Assem Abdel-Maged, a leading Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya activist who fled Egypt following the removal of Morsi, argued “the defeat heralds the collapse of the treacherous party”, an allusion to the Nour Party’s decision to side with the 30 June Revolution against Mohamed Morsi.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition, led by Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, a former intelligence officer and head of the Centre for Political and Strategic Studies affiliated to Al-Gomhouria newspaper, stressed in its public rallies that it will act as a back-up force for Al-Sisi in the coming parliament.

Commenting on the initial results Seif Al-Yazal told the media that “Egyptians have learned the lesson of 2011. Egypt will never have a Kandahar [Islamist] parliament again.”

Al-Ahram political analyst Emad Gad, a candidate on the For the Love of Egypt coalition’s list, told the media on Tuesday “the sweeping victory in the first stage suggests we will win the two party list constituencies contested in the second stage.”

“But the coalition will not be Al-Sisi’s voice in the coming parliament,” insists Gad.

“Once its candidates join parliament they will refer back to their political parties in terms of positions and viewpoints. What we can do, though, is form a bloc supportive of civilian and democratic values.”

For the Love of Egypt won the votes of the majority of Egyptian expats, especially in the Arab Gulf where the turnout was high.

“This shows that the anti-political Islam mood is now dominant among Egyptians abroad as well as at home,” notes Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie.

Rabie expects the second stage of the vote, scheduled for 22 and 23 November, will produce a similar result.

The victory of the For the Love of Egypt coalition also came at the expense of the Egyptian Front and the Independence Current Alliance, an umbrella grouping of Mubarak-era figures.

Ahmed Al-Fadali, the alliance’s coordinator, announced on Tuesday that it has decided to withdraw from the second stage, leaving the field wide open for the Love of Egypt coalition to win the remaining party list constituencies.  

Topping the list of For the Love of Egypt’s successful candidates in Alexandria are industrialist and chairman of Semouha Sporting Club Mohamed Farag Amer and businesswoman Sahar Talaat Mustafa. In Upper Egypt, the coalition’s high-profile winners included Mohamed Al-Orabi, a former minister of foreign affairs, and Mustafa Bakri, the editor of the weekly independent Al-Osbou.

There were conflicting reports about the turnout. HEC and government officials lashed out at Western media claims of a low turnout on the first day of the vote. HEC spokesperson Omar Marawan said Western and private media coverage of the turnout was “completely false”.

Rifaat Qomsan, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s advisor for election affairs, urged the media to exercise caution. “Nobody can give final figures before the run-offs next week,” he said.

Qomsan criticised British and American media claims that a low turnout was in sharp contrast to the long queues that formed outside voting centres during the 2011 parliamentary elections.

“They said the same thing about the 2014 presidential elections without taking into account that it was the doubling of the number of voting stations that led to the elimination of  long queues,” said Qomsan.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid also criticised “attempts by the Western media to jump to conclusions about the results before the end of the first day of voting”.

Independent observers say turnout on Sunday was low but improved on Monday. According to Louai Al-Deeb, chairman of the Norway-based Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), only eight per cent of registered voters went to the polls on the first day while 25 per cent cast their ballot on the second.

Baseera, an independent opinion poll centre, estimates “30 per cent of registered voters went to the polls during the two-day vote.”

Al-Deeb, who expects higher turnout rates in the coming stages, says “the poll was fair and transparent and without any intervention from state authorities.”

First stage run-offs are scheduled for 26 and 27 October for Egyptians overseas and 27 and 28 October for residents. Unsuccessful candidates can file appeals against the results between 20 and 21 October. The HEC is obliged to respond to all appeals on 21 October. Campaigning for the run-off round is held between 21 and 24 October The final results in the 14 governorates involved in the first stage of parliamentary elections are expected to be announced on 30 October.

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