Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

‘Victory’ for secular forces

Polling in the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections closed yesterday with most commentators predicting victory for pro-regime candidates, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

The run-off round of the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections closed yesterday amid tight security and bad weather conditions. Unofficial results suggest three parties — the Free Egyptians, Future Homeland and the Wafd — will emerge as victors.

Few observers expect the Salafist Nour Party to do well. Of its 25 candidates who made it through to run-offs, the majority had trailed behind their secular rivals in the first round.

Preliminary figures suggest the turnout will be similar to that of the first stage. As Al-Ahram Weekly went to press, it was unclear how Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s Tuesday announcement that state employees would be given a half day off on Wednesday to vote would affect the turnout.

 The run-off round, held on Monday and Tuesday for Egyptians abroad and Tuesday and Wednesday for residents, saw 418 candidates competing for 209 seats in 99 constituencies.

On Tuesday evening the Higher Election Committee (HEC) announced that 15,000 Egyptian expats — half the number of those who voted in the first round — had participated in the poll.

The Arab League’s (AL) observer mission reported that the majority of appeals filed by independent candidates after the first round were related not to election irregularities but to procedural issues.

“This explains why hundreds of appeals were rejected by the courts, thus opening the door for the run-off round to move forward this week without any serious legal obstacles,” said the AL mission. The HEC reported that 90 per cent of appeals filed last week were rejected by the courts.

In the first round, the For the Love of Egypt coalition swept the two major, party-list constituencies, winning all 60 seats. Among the victors are 27 women. Most observers expect that the number of female parliamentarians will increase when the results of the run-off rounds are made public, with some analysts predicting the coming parliament will see a record number of women MPs.

“Regardless of last week’s heated controversy over whether the turnout was low or average the fact is that monitors agree the poll was fair,” Makram Mohamed Ahmed, Al-Ahram’s veteran political analyst, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“This represents a victory for political and parliamentary life in Egypt. It is a positive development that comes after years of fraudulent election practices and vote rigging that reached an apogee in the last parliamentary election held under the rule of Hosni Mubarak.”

Contrary to the claims of some Western media outlets, Ahmed insisted, “The poll was far from worthless.”

He continued, “The vote was competitive and the results are significant. Candidates from different political camps were competing against one another. Political Islam was not excluded. It was represented by the Salafist Nour Party, and it was trounced.

“When people failed to vote for the Nour Party in the first round they were expressing their refusal to ever again mix religion with politics. They were underlining the message that was so eloquently expressed by the masses who took to the streets in June 2013 to protest the Muslim Brotherhood’s misrule. There is now a deep mistrust of political Islam and it runs deep in a majority of Egyptians.”

According to Ahmed, “The Western media criticised the poll because the results do not support US President Barack Obama’s position that Islamists must be integrated into the political process for Egypt’s democracy to be inclusive.”

The success of the For the Love of Egypt coalition, which won all the seats reserved for party-list candidates, is, said Ahmed, further proof of the way the 2013 anti-Brotherhood uprising has come to dominate the political scene.

“It is clear that, just as voters have rallied against political Islam, they also chose not to vote for forces like the Egyptian Social Democratic Party or the Popular Socialist Alliance, which adopt a liberal Western agenda and raise radical revolutionary slogans,” said Ahmed.

“Instead, they chose to support a moderate, secular force willing cooperate with the country’s popular president, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, and they did so in order to safeguard the country’s supreme national interests.”

Following their victory last week, some members of the For the Love of Egypt coalition were keen to stress that they will not act as the president’s parliamentary mouthpiece.

“Yes, we said we were ready to cooperate with Al-Sisi in the public interest, but that does not mean we are willing to act as the president’s men in parliament, as some have claimed,” said Emad Gad, an Al-Ahram political analyst who is standing in the elections.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition won four million of the seven million votes cast in party-list constituencies in the first stage of the polls, noted Gad. “If this represents a resounding victory for moderate secular forces, it also represents a resounding defeat for radicals from all backgrounds.”

Mustafa Bakri, who won in Upper Egypt as a For the Love of Egypt candidate, claims to be disappointed by a hostile campaign that he says seeks to undermine the coming parliament.

“Some allege that Egypt’s next parliament will be completely pro-Sisi and will contain zero opposition,” said Bakri. “Others claim that it signals and end to the hopes of the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June.”

Bakri is keen to stress that the coalition does not intend to act as a back-up force for Al-Sisi in parliament. He added, however, “At a time when the Arab world is being torn apart by civil wars, the last thing Egypt needs is a parliament that picks quarrels with the president all the time. All state authorities in Egypt must stand united if we are to weather the crises blowing in from all directions.”

Run-offs in the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections saw 190 candidates from 15 different political parties and 228 candidates with no clear political affiliation fighting to secure a parliamentary seat.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by tycoon Naguib Swiris, topped the list of parties fielding candidates, with 65 making it to the run-off. It was followed by Future Homeland with 48 candidates.

Old-guard forces like the 96-year-old Wafd party and remnants of former president Hosni Mubarak’s defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) were among the biggest losers of the first round of parliamentary elections, says Diaa Rashwan, director of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS).

“The Wafd Party made it to the run-off round with 35 candidates while, between them, the host of parties that are offshoots of the NDP manages to secure places on the ballot papers for just 50 representatives.

The worst performance, though, was that of the 38-year-old Tagammu and the 23-year-old Arab Nasserist party. Neither managed to secure a single place in the run-offs.

Political analyst Mohamed Al-Said Idris begs to differ. He believes the coming parliament will be completely pro-Sisi, and will represent a final nail in the coffin of the ideals of the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June. “The last thing we need is a Mubarak-style rubber stamp parliament,” he warned.

According to Gad, the results of the first stage of the elections reveal a public determined to reject both the representatives of political Islam and the corrupt officials who served in the Mubarak-era NDP.

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