With the date of Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary polls about to be officially announced, the battle lines of the country's coming election campaign have begun to emerge.
The fact that the polls will be held in the first quarter of 2015, or after a six-month delay, sparked fears that there will be little public enthusiasm for the vote. Political analysts note that not only did the delay fail to cause worry for most Egyptians, but many even called upon President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to postpone the polls to the end of 2015, or until the country regained full political and security stability.
According to Mohamed El-Said Idris, a political analyst with Al-Ahram, "After four years of turbulent politics, people have become weary of going to polling stations again." Idris notes that the anticipated 2015 contest will be the seventh general poll in Egypt since the regime of former autocratic president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011. "You got three public referendums, two presidential polls, and one parliamentary election," said Idris, arguing that "Unless political forces have something new to offer to citizens, I have strong fears that there will be little turnout for the coming polls."
Political forces, however, said they are ready and will do their best to attract Egyptians to vote again. The last six months, or since the first preparations for the polls began in July, saw political forces scrambling to form electoral alliances to be able to get a foothold in the coming parliament.
Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, a leftist political analyst, notes in a recent article in Al-Ahram that four electoral alliances have been formed, all of them on ideological lines. "Although some public figures, like former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, tried their best to form one electoral bloc representing all the country's secular forces, vis-à-vis Islamists, these attempts ended in deadlock." Shukr attributed Moussa's failure to the fact that ideological differences among political parties are so strong and historical that it is quite difficult to bring them into one coalition.
Shukr also notes that "The battle lines of the country's election campaign will be drawn over four ideological lines: liberals led by Al-Wafd Party, remnants of the former regime of Hosni Mubarak led by the so-called Egyptian Front, the remnants of Islamists led by the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, and revolutionary forces led by the so-called "Democratic Current," which includes a mix of liberal and leftist forces led by the Constitution Party founded by ex-UN diplomat Mohamed ElBaradie and the Popular Current led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi.
To the surprise of many, two high-profile politicians said that they would form what they call "national lists of candidates" to compete against political parties in the coming polls. These are Kamal El-Ganzouri, a Mubarak-era prime minister, and Abdel-Gelil Mostafa, a university professor and a revolutionary activist who acted as general coordinator of the anti-Mubarak Kifaya Movement.
According to Yehia Qadri, chairman of the National Movement , a party founded by Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, and a member of the Egyptian Front alliance, "El-Ganzouri has almost finalised" a "national list" of public figures who will compete for the 120 seats reserved for party-based candidates. "El-Ganzouri has been in negotiations with several political forces and independent public figures to put them on his national lists," Qadri told Ahram Online, explaining that "What is meant by the national list is that it includes public figures who enjoy a broad national consensus and as a result could gain a lot of seats in the coming parliament." Qadri also explained that "In so doing, El-Ganzouri does not aim to be back again to centre stage, but he believes that the new parliament should include MPs with high political responsibility and acting in harmony with President El-Sisi."
A presidential spokesman said two weeks ago that El-Ganzouri is acting on his own and that President El-Sisi has not asked any public figure to prepare lists of candidates in parliamentary polls.
Qadri said as far as he knows, El-Ganzouri's national list is expected to include names like Fayza Abul Naga, a former Mubarak-era international cooperation minister and currently a national security advisor to President El-Sisi; former security and intelligence experts Murad Muwafi and Sameh Seif El-Yazal; and political activist and writer Sekina Fouad, among others.
El-Ganzouri has also held a number of meetings with Copts and young political activists. According to the new constitution, lists of party-based candidates must include women, young people, Christians, workers and farmers, Egyptian expats, and the handicapped.
Qadri said the Egyptian Front bloc is working closely in cooperation with El-Ganzouri. "As long as we stand on similar ideological grounds — that is, espousing the ideals of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June — it is only logical that we coordinate together," said Qadri, noting that "The Egyptian Front has sent El-Ganzouri names of 25 public figures that can join his national lists."
Apart from the Egyptian Front, most of the other party-based electoral blocs, such as the liberal Egyptian Wafd, rejected any kind of coordination with El-Ganzouri. Most of these forces take El-Ganzouri as an old guard politician who belongs to the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak. Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, chairman of the liberal Reform and Development Party, a member of the Wafd electoral coalition, said he believes that El-Ganzouri wants to be back to centre stage again, but this time as speaker of the new parliament. "I highly appreciate El-Ganzouri as an efficient prime minister who fell out with Mubarak, but I think that the last thing people needs at this stage is that a Mubarak-era politician comes back to centre stage again," Sadat told Ahram Online.
El-Ganzouri was prime minister under the Mubarak regime for three years (1996-1999) and for one year under the post-Mubarak rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi (2012-2013).
Like El-Ganzouri, Abdel-Gelil Mostafa has also embarked upon forming another "national list" of candidates, but mainly to be in competition again the remnants of the Mubarak and Muslim Brotherhood regimes alike. Mostafa withdrew from the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly that drafted a constitution under the Morsi regime in 2012, but in 2013, and after Morsi was removed from office, he joined the 50-Member Committee that drafted the new constitution passed in January.
Mostafa said his national lists aim to be the voice of a greater alliance of all revolutionary forces that are antagonistic to the return of the diehards of the Mubarak and Muslim Brotherhood regimes to political and parliamentary life.
Mostafa told Al-Ahram newspaper on 27 December that a committee including a number of high-profile public figures was formed to form "national lists" capable of competing in the coming polls. "This committee includes political economy professor and writer Galal Amin, movie director Khaled Youssef, Coptic political activist and writer Samir Morcos, political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan, and human rights activist Mona ZulFakar," said Mostafa, indicating that "This committee is being tasked with producing lists of candidates who will not be symbols of the Mubarak and Brotherhood eras in any way, and aim to implement the ideals of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June."
Mostafa also disclosed that the revolutionary forces under the banner of the "Democratic Current" have highly welcomed joining his electoral lists. "The Wafd has also been in contact with me and we aim to coordinate together," said Mostafa.
Mostafa told Al-Ahram that his decision to join the coming parliamentary campaign comes out of complete conviction that "The new post-25 January and 30 June revolution forces must have a strong voice in the coming parliament." "These forces do not want to be in confrontation with President El-Sisi, but aim to be part of a vibrant and powerful parliament that can be of help in fighting corruption and thwarting any attempt for a return to Mubarak or Brotherhood-style authoritarian rule," said Mostafa.