Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)
Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Voters say no to political Islam

The final results of the first stage of parliamentary elections saw secular forces win the majority of seats, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Three secular political forces — the Free Egyptians, Future of Homeland and Wafd parties — emerged as the winners in the first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections that ended on 30 October.

Candidates from the three parties, standing in constituencies reserved for individuals rather than party lists, won 90 seats. Another 18 independents affiliated with other parties also won seats.

The Higher Election Committee (HEC) announced on 30 October that 273 seats were allocated following the first stage of the polls, held in two rounds between 17 and 28 October.

“Sixty seats went to party-list candidates and 213 to independents,” said HEC spokesman Omar Marawan. “Of the latter, 108 were affiliated with political parties and 105 had no clear party affiliation.”

Eleven individual constituencies will have to restage polls within 60 days after complaints against the election process were upheld.

The ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, none of whose party-list candidates won, made up some lost ground in the independent run-offs. Nour Party spokesman Abdel-Ghaffar Taha said 10 of the party’s 25 candidates who made it to the run-off round win their seats, the majority of these in Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh, historic Salafist strongholds.

Nour Party member Shaaban Abdel-Alim blamed “political money” for his party’s poor showing at the polls. “In the first stage, political parties funded by wealthy businessmen spent millions on vote-buying in order to win seats,” Abdel-Alim told Al-Ahram Weekly. He also conceded that the No to Religious Parties campaign had affected Nour Party candidates’ chances.

Two independent leftists emerged as winners in the first round. Haitham Hariri and Kamal Ahmed won seats in Alexandria’s Moharram Bey and Al-Attarin constituencies.

The Future of Homeland Party, which supports President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, says 30 candidates out of the 48 who made it to the run-off round won seats.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, announced that 41 of its candidates, of the 65 who made it to the run-offs, won seats. Free Egyptians spokesman Wagih Shehab, who denies the party was involved in vote-buying, has accused the Nour Party of spending millions on its campaign, far exceeding the ceiling set by the HEC.

“Al-Nour received millions of pounds in donations from Salafist movements in the Arab Gulf,” said Shehab. “Despite the money, they failed to win many seats. The Nour Party seems unaware that the majority of Egyptians have turned their back on political Islam.”

Of the 35 Wafd Party candidates who reached the run-offs, 17 won seats.

In the Giza governorate constituency of Agouza, Ahmed Mortada Mansour, the son of Mortada Mansour, chairman of Zamalek Sporting Club, won by a narrow margin. Mansour received 21,817 votes, ahead of his rival, Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Al-Shobaki, who got 21,029.

In the run-off round, 418 independent candidates competed for 209 seats in 99 constituencies.

While the For the Love of Egypt coalition won all 60 seats reserved for party-based candidates in the first round, only four independent candidates secured seats.

Of the 110 women running as independents and party-based candidates in the first stage of parliamentary elections, 32 have made it to parliament. Preliminary reports also suggest that 16 Copts have been returned.

“Women were keen to participate in the polls and cast their votes,” Mervat Tallawy, a former minister of social solidarity and chair of the National Council for Women (NCW), told Al-Ahram Weekly. Women voters are believed to have accounted for 30 per cent of the first-stage turnout.

The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), an independent NGO, says 308 women registered as parliamentary candidates:110 in the first stage and 198 in the second.

Of the 32 women who have already secured seats, 27 stood on the party list of For the Love of Egypt and five as independent candidates. Of the latter, one candidate was affiliated to the Arab Nasserist Party, another to the right-of-centre Conference Party.

Five Coptic women won as party-list candidates. They include Suzy Adli Nashed, professor of public economics at Alexandria’s Faculty of Law and a former Shura Council appointee; Elizabeth Abdel-Messih, director of the Healthcare Department of the Assiut Health Directorate; and Mervat Michel, a reporter with a Beni Suef-based radio station.

Other newly elected women MPs incude Nasserist journalist Nashwa Al-Deeb (Giza), businesswoman Sahar Talaat Mostafa (Alexandria), Amna Noseir, a professor at Al-Azhar University, and Olfat Kamel, an activist with the Modern Egypt Party.

Egypt’s 1956 Constitution gave women the right to vote and run for parliament. The1957 parliamentary elections saw two women — Rawya Atteya and Amina Shukry — returned, becoming the first female parliamentarians in the Arab world.

Despite more than half a century of enfranchisement, women have had a limited presence in Egypt’ parliament. A study compiled by Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic and Political Studies (ACPSS) places female representation in Egyptian parliaments in the second half of the 20th century at between 2 and 2.5 per cent of the total number of MPs.

“In 2010 a quota of 64 seats was reserved for women but it was abolished after Hosni Mubarak was forced from power and parliament dissolved in February 2011,” the ACPSS study reports. In the 2011 parliamentary elections, which were dominated by Islamists, only 11 women won seats.

Tallawy expects that when the second round of elections is complete women will have won at least 60 seats. While she says the improvement in the level of representation is partly due to the 2014 Constitution, which obliges political parties to include a set number of women on their lists, it was also helped by “the National Council for Women encouraging women to run and turn out in their millions to vote.”

Copts, too, scored an election success in the first round. Out of 50 Copts who contested seats in the first stage of parliamentary polls, 16 won, reports the ACPSS. The HEC reported that 12 Coptic candidates won as part of the For the Love of Egypt coalition and four independents secured seats in the run-off round.

The representation of Copts in Egyptian parliaments since 1956 has been low, forcing Egyptian presidents to use their presidential appointment quota to boost the number of Copts in parliament. Only seven Coptic MPs were returned in 2000, six in 2005, ten in 2010 and 11 in 2011.

Sherif Al-Nady is a Copt who won in Al-Minya as an independent affiliated to the Free Egyptians Party. He told reporters that he was proud to have won the confidence of both Coptic and Muslim voters.

ACPSS analyst Yusri Al-Azabawy says it is a positive sign that 16 Christian candidates won seats in the first stage of parliamentary elections.

“If the number can be increased to, say, 30 seats by the end of the elections it will serve to encourage Copts to actively participate in political life and end the pernicious influence of Islamist movements which, for almost two decades, have acted to discourage Copts from taking part in elections,” said Al-Azabawy.

The HEC says the first round run-offs of Egypt’s two-stage parliamentary elections witnessed a 21.7 per cent turnout. The second stage of the elections will be held on 23 and 24 November in 13 governorates.

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