Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1270, (12 - 18 November 2015)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1270, (12 - 18 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Bracing for tough competition

Three secular electoral coalitions and one Islamist party are preparing to do battle over 45 seats reserved for the constituency of Cairo and the Nile Delta, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Parlimentary Elections
Parlimentary Elections
Al-Ahram Weekly

The second stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, to be held between 21 November and 2 December and covering 13 governorates, is expected to be fierce in Cairo and seven densely populated Nile Delta governorates.

Omar Marawan, spokesman for the Higher Election Committee (HEC), in charge of supervising the polls, told a press conference on 5 November that the first stage covered 14 governorates and included 27.4 million registered voters.

“But the second stage, which covers only 13 governorates, will include some 28.2 million registered voters — or almost one million more than the first stage,” Marawan said.

Marawan told reporters, “Although most of the governorates in the second stage are densely populated, please do not expect long queues at the polling stations. The reason is that the number of auxiliary polling stations in these governorates has increased by 3,000, or from 9,834 in the 2012 poll to 12,946 in this year’s ballot.”

He said that as many as 222 seats will be up for grabs among 2,847 independent candidates in the second stage, and added, “This number could decrease or increase before voting day.”

Marawan said as many as 60 seats are at stake among party-based candidates in the second stage: the 45-seat Cairo, South and Middle and North Delta constituency, and the 15-seat East Delta constituency.

The electoral coalition For the Love of Egypt has almost won the 15-seat Nile East Delta constituency (including the governorates of Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North and South Sinai): it is the only party list that successfully registered there. It has to secure five per cent of the vote in the constituency to be officially declared the winner.

In Cairo, the South, Middle and North Nile Delta constituencies (including the governorates of Cairo, Qalioubiya, Daqahliyya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya and Kafr Al-Sheikh), the competition will be tough as four party lists are competing for the 45 seats reserved in the province.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition, widely believed to be loyal to Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, is eager to win the second stage’s 60 party-list seats after winning the 60 seats allocated to the first stage.

While For the Love of Egypt coalition, including 13 political parties, is sure to win the 15-seat East Delta constituency, it will face a hard battle in the 45-seat Cairo and Nile Delta constituency against three rival party lists: the Independence Current and National Movement Party alliance, Republican Alliance of Social Forces, and ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist force contesting the polls.

The For Love of Egypt list of candidates in Cairo and the Nile Delta includes a number of high-profile figures, including Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, the coalition’s coordinator and former intelligence officer; Osama Heikal, chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) and a former information minister; Kamal Amer, a former army intelligence chief; Taher Abu Zeid, a former sports minister; Ahmed Said, a former MP and chairman of the Free Egyptians Party; Tarek Al-Khouli, a former spokesman for the revolutionary 6 April activist movement; Mahmoud Badr, founder of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement; and Margaret Azaer, a former Wafdist MP.

Mustafa Bakri, a journalist who won a seat in the first stage, told parliamentary reporters on 7 November, “If the coalition won all the 120 seats reserved to party lists, it would be able to form a majority bloc of civilian forces supportive of President Al-Sisi in the upcoming parliament.”

Bakri indicated that not only did For the Love of Egypt win the first stage’s 60 party-list seats, but independent candidates affiliated with political parties forming part of the coalition were also able to win around 120 seats.

For the Love of Egypt has come under fire in recent days from Tahani Al-Gibali, a former judge and coordinator of the rival Republican Alliance of Social Forces. Al-Gibali warned in a public statement last week that it would be “a big setback if For the Love of Egypt won all the 120 party list seats.”

Said Al-Gibali, “Our alliance is against the return of Hosni Mubarak regime remnants and Muslim Brotherhood activists to political life.” She said that the list of the For the Love of Egypt coalition’s candidates in the second stage include as many as 38 who were affiliated with Mubarak’s now-defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and claimed they are currently spending “a lot of political money” to buy votes.

“This is a bad development for Egypt’s political life and we all should stand united to counter this trend,” Al-Gibali said.

Al-Gibali, widely known as the “Iron Lady”, stressed that the Republican Alliance stands against Mubarak’s NDP and Islamist forces alike, or what she called “the merchants of politics and religion.”

The list of the Republican Alliance’s party-based candidates include Al-Gibali; Hossam Kheirallah, a former deputy chairman of Egypt’s intelligence and a 2012 presidential candidate; journalist Hossam Hazem; Egyptian TV host and producer Atef Kamel; and former governor of the Central Bank of Egypt and a former MP Fayeka Al-Rifaei.

“The list includes 29 female candidates, nine young candidates and others representing farmers and workers,” Al-Gibali said.

The alliance Independence Current and the Egyptian Front, including 40 political parties, is primarily affiliated with Mubarak’s NDP. It is largely composed of Misr Baladi (Egypt My Homeland), a political party founded by Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, and the National Movement Party, founded by Qadri Abu Hussein, a former Mubarak-era provincial governor.

Independent candidates affiliated with the two Mubarak-era parties won only three seats in the first stage.

Abu Hussein told Al-Ahram Weekly, “HEC did a lot of damage and injustice to the alliance in the first stage as it allowed it to run in the Upper Egypt constituency only after the court ordered it to do so.

“As a result, our list did not have enough campaign time, but we have high hopes to win the 45-seat Cairo and Delta constituency because most of our candidates are former MPs who have wide-scale popularity and experience.”

Like Al-Gibali, Abu Hussein said it was “very bad” that one electoral coalition wins all the party-list seats. “The party-list MPs should be affiliated with different political parties so that we can have a diverse and balanced parliament,” said Abu Hussein.

The alliance’s list includes such public figures as Ahmed Al-Fadalli, chairman of the Democratic Peace Party; Nagi Al-Shehabi, chairman of the Generation Party; Samir Zaher, a former head of the Egyptian Football Association; journalist Mahmoud Maarouf, and former Sinai MPs Galila Awad and Sanaa Gilbana.

The Salafist Nour Party, which suffered a stunning defeat in the first stage, is trying its best in the second stage to compensate for the loss. Al-Nour, which won only eight seats in the first stage, is not only competing to win the 45-seat Cairo and Nile Delta constituency, but it also has 73 candidates running as independents.

Salah Abdel-Maaboud, a leading Nour official, told the Weekly that the party will have ten independent candidates running as independents in Cairo. “In terms of party lists, we have high hopes that millions of voters in the rural Nile Delta will be in favour of Al-Nour,” said Abdel-Maaboud.

Topping the list of Al-Nour candidates in the second stage are the party’s deputy chairman, Bassam Al-Zarqa; Mohamed Azab, a former Nour MP; Al-Sayed Khalifa, ex-Nour MP; and Abdel-Halim Al-Gammal, a former MP.

Al-Nour’s battle in the second stage, however, will not be an easy task. The “No to Religious Parties” campaign said it will step up moves aimed at discouraging citizens from voting for Al-Nour.

The campaign said it will hold a press conference on Wednesday to alert citizens to the danger of voting for Al-Nour. The campaign accused Al-Nour of fielding former Muslim Brotherhood officials on its lists.

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