Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1272, (26 November - 2 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Ballots in the balance

Semi-official reports from the second stage of the parliamentary elections confirm that pro-president coalitions will dominate Egypt’s next parliament, Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Semi-final results of the second and final stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections suggest that the electoral coalition ““For the Love of Egypt””, widely believed to comprise supporters of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, will be the dominant bloc in Egypt’s new parliament.

The coalition has swept the polls, winning the 60 seats reserved to party-based candidates in two constituencies in the second stage and boosting its total quota in the upcoming parliament to 120 seats, or 23 per cent.

Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, the coordinator of “For the Love of Egypt”, told reporters on Tuesday that the coalition’s victory in the second stage was “huge and overwhelming”.

“We won 67 per cent of the votes in Cairo and the Nile South and Middle Delta and 72 per cent in the Nile East Delta,” said Seif Al-Yazal, referring to the fact that “the vote for the coalition in the first stage did not exceed 60 per cent.”

Like the first stage, the three secular political forces forming part of “For the Love of Egypt” — the Wafd, the Free Egyptians Party and the Future of the Homeland — again showed strong performances in the second stage. Initial reports stated that out of 326 candidates fielded by these parties as independents, 145 qualified for the run-off stage scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the first stage, held between 17 and 28 October, independent candidates affiliated with the three secular forces won around 70 seats. If added to the 120 party-based seats which “For the Love of Egypt” won, they would total 190 seats or around 30 per cent. Most observers expect that this quota will increase by the end of the vote next week to 40 per cent or even 50 per cent of the parliament’s total seats.

“For the Love of Egypt” trounced two secular blocs — the Republican Alliance of Social Forces and the National Movement, and the Independence Current Alliance — and one Islamist force, the Salafist Al-Nour Party.

The fact that one political faction has monopolised the 120 seats reserved to party lists in the two-stage polls triggered criticism from rival forces.

Tahani Al-Gibali, coordinator of the Republican Alliance, attacked the leaders of “For the Love of Egypt”, accusing them of doing “everything possible and impossible” to win the Cairo and Nile Delta’s 45 seats. Al-Gibali claimed that “For the Love of Egypt” obtained cash donations from members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, plus money from the US, France and seven other countries, to win the vote.

Al-Gibali said Seif Al-Yazal, a former intelligence officer, and Osama Heikal, a former information minister, had “betrayed the nation” by meeting Brotherhood leaders in Kuwait.

Al-Gibali’s remark received a quick and furious response from Mustafa Bakri, a journalist who won a seat in the first stage as a “For the Love of Egypt” candidate. Bakri accused Al-Gibali of “spreading lies and political heresies”.

Bakri asserted that Al-Gibali’s attacks on Monday were mainly prompted by the overwhelming majority which voted for “For the Love of Egypt”. “She recognised that her coalition was about to suffer a humiliating defeat and so she decided to open fire on us instead of asking why her coalition was defeated,” Bakri said.

Heikal said the coalition will sue Al-Gibali. “This is the best response to her because we don’t allow ourselves to be dragged into verbal clashes,” said Heikal. Seif Al-Yazal asserted that “Al-Gibali had high hopes that she would be the speaker of the new parliament, but as these hopes have now been dashed, she chose to open fire on our coalition.”

The ultraconservative Salafist Al-Nour Party continued its poor performance in the second stage. Not only did Al-Nour fail to win the 45-seat party list constituency — the Cairo and Nile South and Middle Delta — which it chose to contest in the second stage, but initial reports suggest it is badly trailing the other three rival secular coalitions competing in this constituency, and that none of its 73 candidates standing as independents won a seat or even qualified for the run-off. In the first stage, Al-Nour got only eight seats, a far cry from 2012 when it won 112 seats, or 22.1 per cent.

Said Sadek, a political science professor with the American University in Cairo, notes that Al-Nour’s defeat is consistent with the wide-scale anti-political Islam mood in Egypt since 2013. “Since then, the people have removed an Islamist president from office, endorsed a constitution in 2014 that separates religion and politics, voted for an anti-political Islam president in 2014, and then decided in 2015 to curtail the power of Islamists in parliament,” Sadek said.

Bakri told Al-Ahram Weekly that “For the Love of Egypt” is now well placed to form a dominant civilian bloc in parliament. “We will not be Al-Sisi’s mouthpiece in parliament. We want to cooperate with the Egyptian regime and state to reinforce Egypt’s powers and immunity in a region plagued by internal conflicts, severe sectarian strife and bloody civil wars,” Bakri said.

Yousri Al-Azabawi, an Al-Ahram political analyst, notes that the victory of “For the Love of Egypt” came at the expense of not only Al-Nour Islamists but also the 2011 January Revolution elite that still insist that Al-Sisi is another Mubarak-style authoritarian president. “The 25 January Revolution movements and factions scared the Egyptians by adopting a radical liberal Western agenda that could only lead to chaos and anarchy in terms of endless street protests and animosity against the military,” Al-Azabawi said, adding that after enjoying an unprecedented margin of stability under one year of Al-Sisi’s presidency, “they opted to elect a moderate force free of liberal Western jargon and Islamist fanaticism.”

Unlike the first stage in which only four independent candidates won seats, around 10 won seats outright in the second stage without the need for a run-off. A number of high-profile figures topped the list, including Khaled Youssef, a high-profile movie director; Ali Al-Moselhi, a former minister of social solidarity and once a leading official of Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP); Talaat Al-Sewidi, a former NDP official and an electricity cables business tycoon; Mahmoud Khamis, a former NDP MP and a major textile industrialist; journalist Ahmed Badawi; political analyst Samir Ghattas; and Mahmoud Othman, a former NDP official and construction magnate.

Al-Azabawi noted that despite terrorist threats, North Sinai came on top in terms of turnout. “A record 44 per cent of voters turned out to vote in this terror-stricken governorate,” he said.

In the densely populated Daqahliya governorate, a number of high-profile figures will join the run-off, including Mortada Mansour, the flamboyant lawyer who is chairman of Zamalek Sporting Club, and whose son, Ahmed, won a seat in the first stage. Also included are Tawfik Okasha, owner of Al-Faraeen satellite channel, and Fouad Badrawi, grandson of Al-Wafd Party’s founder in the 1970s Fouad Seraggeddin.

Al-Azabawi also noted that many of Mubarak’s NDP officials won seats this week while many others qualified for the run-off. “The reason is that many political parties lacking popular candidates but possessing a lot of money resorted to fielding old NDP officials with deep-rooted family and tribal ties in various constituencies to swell their ranks in parliament.”

The results show that senior NDP officials including Hussein Megawer, Moataz Al-Shazli, son of the NDP’s former parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Al-Shazli, Ihab Al-Omda and Mohamed Hamouda, a lawyer defending former NDP millionaire Ahmed Ezz, are in the run-offs.

Sadek agrees that “political money” was highly influential in the second stage. “Since a large number of businessmen and merchants competed in this stage and as election laws do not impose any penalties on vote-buying, it was natural for political money to proliferate,” Sadek said.

A second handbook vendor in downtown Cairo, Sayed, told the Weekly that supporters of a millionaire candidate gave him LE100 in return for voting for him. “They took me and many others in cars, took our identity cards, and told us where and how to vote for the business candidate,” said Sayed, adding that he saw big money sacks being used by the business candidate’s supporters to buy votes.

The Higher Election Committee in charge of supervising the polls on Tuesday postponed a press conference on the poll following the killing of two judges monitoring the vote in a terrorist attack in Al-Arish, the capital of North Sinai governorate.

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