Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Parliamentary polls: The home straight

Voting in the second stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections took place amid tight security, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Voting in the second stage of parliamentary elections, covering 13 governorates, took place on Saturday and Sunday for overseas voters and on Sunday and Monday for those at home. Run-offs are scheduled for 1 and 2 December.

The Higher Elections Committee (HEC) said that 28,204,225 voters — one million more than in the first stage — were eligible to vote.

Officials announced 26.5 per cent of registered voters turned out in the first stage. Commentators expect a slight increase in the second round, with turnout possibly reaching 30 per cent.  Government employees were given a half day off in a bid to boost participation.

Speaker of the Arab Parliamentary Union Ahmed Al-Garawan told reporters on Monday that though elderly and female voters were seen in the greatest numbers at polling stations there were signs that more young people were voting than in the first stage.

HEC spokesperson Omar Marwan said 37,000 expats had cast their ballots by the end of Monday. In the first stage the expat vote did not exceed 30,000.

The second, and final, stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections was held amid tight security. Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar announced on Saturday that 35,000 policemen and central security forces had been deployed to safeguard 12,858 auxiliary polling stations in 5,622 election centres. They joined 160,000 army personnel already mobilised to protect polling stations during the Sunday and Monday vote.
Soldiers from the Central Command in Cairo helped secure the vote in the three governorates of Cairo, Qalioubiya and Menoufiya. The Second Field Army was deployed in Daqahliya, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia and North Sinai, the Third Field Army in Suez and South Sinai and soldiers from the North Military District in Gharbiya and Kafr Al-Sheikh.

The vote in the North Sinai governorate, where 12 independent candidates were competing for five seats, provided the greatest challenge for security and army forces. Since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from office in July, 2013 the governorate has turned into a battleground between security forces and militants affiliated with Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis.

“The question was not how many voters in North Sinai would participate but whether the poll could be held at all given the security situation,” says Al-Ahram political analyst Wahid Abdel-Meguid. That the vote went ahead, he argues, is evidence that the military campaign against Islamist militants in North Sinai is succeeding.

North Sinai includes more than 200,000 registered voters. The first day of voting passed without major incidents. Early on Monday, however, an improvised explosive device killed a policeman and injured two soldiers near the troubled border town of Rafah. On Tuesday morning a car exploded in Al-Arish, close to a hotel where judges supervising parliamentary elections were staying, killing four and injuring 14. 

“One judge was among those killed and two civilians are among the injured. They were treated in Al-Arish public hospital, while 12 were transferred to a nearby military hospital,” said Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed. 

The Education Ministry, after coordinating with security officials, closed state schools on Sunday and Monday as an additional security measure. Many school buildings serve as polling stations.
While independent NGOs observing the poll said it appeared fair and transparent media reports have highlighted a growing tendency to buy votes.

Competition in the second stage of parliamentary polls was particularly fierce in Cairo and six densely populated Nile Delta governorates: Qalioubiya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Daqahliya, Sharqiya, and Kafr Al-Sheikh.

A total of 282 seats were up for competition in the second stage, 60 reserved for party-based lists and 222 for independent candidates.

Party lists comprising a total of 180 candidates battled it out in the 45-seat Cairo, South, Middle and North Delta constituency and the 15-seat East Delta constituency.

The 222 independent seats, divided across 102 constituencies, had attracted 2,847 candidates. Cairo, which returns 49 MPs, was the most heavily contested governorate. More than 500 independent candidates were fighting to represent districts in the capital which has 6.5 million registered voters.

For the Love of Egypt and the Republican Alliance of Social Forces were the front runners in the Cairo, South, Middle and North Delta constituency, with the National Movement and Independence Current Alliance and the Salafist Nour Party trailing behind.

Tahani Al-Gibali, coordinator of the Republican Alliance, said For the Love of Egypt coalition leaders would “resort to anything” to win Cairo and Nile Delta’s 45 seats, including coordinating with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Gibali’s remark provoked a furious response from Mustafa Bakri, a successful first stage For the Love of Egypt candidate.

Bakri accused Al-Gibali of “spreading lies”. Her attacks, he claimed, were because “she recognised her coalition was about to lose”.

For Love of Egypt appeared poised to repeat its first round victory when it took all 60 seats reserved for party list candidates.

In the second stage of parliamentary elections three secular political parties, the Wafd , the Free Egyptians and the Future of Homeland, fielded the largest number of candidates with 130, 110 and 86 respectively.

Independent candidates affiliated with the three parties won 124 seats in the first stage, and 60 courtesy of For the Love of Egypt coalition lists.

The Nour Party, which managed to win just eight seats in the first stage, fielded 73 candidates in the second.

Among officials from the Mubarak-era National Democratic Party (NDP) standing in the second stage were businessmen Talaat Al-Qawass in Abdeen and Hani Sorour in Bab Al-Sheiriya, former chairman of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions Hussein Megawer in Maadi, Ihab Al-Omda in Al-Sharabiya, businesswoman Shahinaz Al-Naggar in Al-Manial, former NDP MP Haidar Al-Boghdadi in Gamalia and TV anchor and owner of Al-Faraeen channel Tawfik Okasha in Daqahliya.

Few commentators expect the first round of the second stage to be decisive for independent candidates. The fate of the vast majority, they say, will be decided in next week’s run-off rounds.

In the first stage only four independents won outright in the opening round.

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