Egyptians returned to the polls yesterday in a second – and final – round of voting that would determine the fate of 283 parliamentary seats. It was a day all too familiar – the results already somewhat known, the day again witness to reports of scattered violence and opposition charges of fraud.
In the first round on 28 November, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) scored a landslide victory, winning 209, or 95 percent, of the seats that were designated that day, and 40 percent of the parliament’s total 508 elected seats. Just twelve other seats were designated: seven to independents, two to the liberal Wafd, one each to the Tagammu, Ghad and the Social Justice parties.
Preliminary results of yesterday's run-off vote showed that the NDP is about to achieve another landslide victory. The election's final results will be declared tomorrow or Wednesday, according to officials of the Higher Election Commission (HEC) – the body appointed by President Hosni Mubarak to oversee the parliamentary elections and vote.
Vying for the 283 seats yesterday in 166 constituencies were 566 candidates. They included 383 from the NDP, 167 independents, nine from the Wafd party, six from the leftist Tagammu party, one from the marginal Social Peace party, and 27 from the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite a prior announcement that they would withdraw from yesterday's run-off vote, seven candidates of the Wafd party actively contested the race.
While the first round was marred with allegations of vote-rigging and violence, this one was witness to another kind of controversy. Despite a ruling by the Administrative Justice Court (AJC) annulling first-round results in ten of the nation’s 254 constituencies due to voting irregularities, the government and the HEC went ahead with yesterday's ballot. The AJC has said that the government’s decision to ignore those orders has raised doubts about the legality of the coming parliament, and that the coming People's Assembly will have no right to decide the legality of its deputies.
Although tension lingered over the week into this second round, yesterday saw no deaths, and only incidents of scattered violence, most of it between NDP candidates.
In Gharbiya's village of Abu Fisha, affiliated to the district of Birma, fighting and clashes erupted, while in the Talkha district in Daqahliyya governorate, there was an exchange of fire between the supporters of candidates, many of them NDP. The same unfolded in the upper Egypt governorate of Qena, where there was an exchange of fire in the district of Nagaa Hamadi in which two prominent NDP candidates – Abdel-Reheim El-Goul and Fakhri Qandil – engaged in a fierce battle.
Preliminary results of yesterday's final vote confirm that the ruling NDP will emerge triumphant. In north Cairo's district of Shubra, the Wafd candidate for the professionals seat and Christian businessman Rami Lakah lost to the NDP candidate – and notably former chairman of state security service – Fadi Al-Habashi. In the same district, a Coptic independent candidate for workers' seat also lost to the NDP's Rida Wahdan, a veteran MP.
In Cairo, the Tagammu party candidate and veteran MP Mohamed Abdel-Aziz Shaaban won the workers' seat of east Cairo's district of Hadayek El-Qubba. His victory was a surprise: he pushed out the NDP’s Hazem Badreddin. In north Sinai's Biir Al-Abd, the NDP's two contending candidates, Ramadan Sarhan and Ali Radwan, won at the expense of their NDP rivals Soliman Al-Zamloot and Salama Al-Roqie.
In Luxor's district of Armant, the leftist Tagammu party's Diaa Rashwan – a scholar and deputy head of Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies – staged a sit-in, protesting the harassment and beating he faced at the hands of supporters of his NDP rival Bahgat Al-Sun.
In Shubra El-Kheima in the Qalioubiya governorate north of Cairo, NDP candidate Eid Salem Moussa secured strong support and high votes against NDP rival Abdel-Mohsen Salama, an Ahram journalist. In Tanta, the capital of Gharbiya, Ahmed Shubair, NDP's candidate and the former goalkeeper's of Egypt's national football team, complained of harassment from rival NDP candidate and businessman Yasser El-Guindi.
Out of 166 districts, as many as 114 saw exclusive competition among NDP candidates.
In the Delta governorate of Menoufiya, near negligible voter turn-out rates were registered. Several NDP candidates confirmed easy wins after their Muslim Brotherhood opponents withdrew citing protest against the “blatant” and “widespread” rigging in the first round. In Ashmoun district, as one example. the NDP Hamed Samaha won after Brotherhood candidate Ashraf Badreddin withdrew.
In Alexandria, the competition was fierce and the results are expected to be clearer today. There is just one opposition candidate running in Alexandria: the Tagammu's Abdel-Fattah Mohamed against NDP's candidate and veteran MP Ali Seif.
The HEC has said that low turn-out rates were registered in the early hours of the voting day, but by the afternoon the crowds had come out. Ahmed Shawki, chairman of the HEC's operations room, said the turn-out stands at 27 percent.