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Egypt's electoral marathon to begin Tuesday

The parliamentary elections, which were originally set to be held in March and April, will begin in October

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 31 Aug 2015
File photo of Egypt's parliament (Photo: Reuters)
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Candidates wishing to stand in Egypt's parliamentary ‎polls will be able to begin registering on Tuesday after passing medical tests that will cost them EGP 2850 ($365) each.

In a press conference on Sunday, Ayman Abbas, head of the ‎Higher Elections Committee (HEC) in charge of ‎supervising the polls, announced that candidates ‎seeking to stand in the coming parliamentary elections ‎can register between 1 and 12 September.‎

‎"Registration will begin at 9am and end at 5pm, except ‎on 12 September, when the window to register will close ‎at 2pm," said Abbas. ‎

Abbas also announced that the poll will be held in two ‎stages, beginning on 17-18 October and ending on 1-2 ‎December. ‎

A new parliament could hold its opening session in the ‎second week of December.‎

According to the HEC's new poll timetable, an initial list of ‎candidates in the first stage will be announced on 13 ‎September.‎

Candidates who might be rejected could file appeals with the ‎HEC between 13 and 15 September. The HEC will give its ‎final say on these appeals in five days or between 17 and ‎‎21 September.

This will be followed by the seven-day ‎holiday of the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha.‎

HEC's timetable indicated that a final list of the ‎candidates for the first round of the vote, including 14 ‎governorates, would be announced on 28 September.‎

Campaigning for the first round will be allowed between ‎‎28 September and 15 October.

Abbas indicated that candidates who had registered in ‎March when the elections were originally scheduled to be ‎held will not be required to submit new nomination ‎documents or undergo new health checks. ‎

‎"They will be just required to fill the main candidate ‎application paper," Abbas said.‎

Egypt's parliament – or the House of Representatives – ‎will comprise of 596 members, 448 elected as independents ‎and 120 from party-based lists. The remaining 28 seats ‎will be filled by presidential appointees. Egypt has around ‎‎55 million registered voters.‎

While the majority of political parties are unhappy with the ‎election laws, particularly the cap on seats allocated to ‎party-based candidates, they have ruled out the ‎possibility of boycotting the polls.‎

Political parties also complained that the poll timetable is ‎long and exhausting, for both candidates and security ‎forces. ‎

Gamal Zahran, a professor of political science with Suez ‎Canal University and coordinator of "Social Justice" ‎electoral coalition, told Ahram Online that "the election ‎process will continue for three months, the longest in ‎Egypt's poll history." ‎

‎"The election process will begin on 1 September and end ‎on 2 December and this exercises a heavy burden on ‎candidates and security forces in terms of registration ‎and campaigning," said Zahran, adding that "while ‎security forces will be forced to be in a state of high ‎mobilisation and alert for three months, candidates will be ‎equally required to prepare for a long period of ‎registration and campaigning in terms of money and ‎election tours."‎

Zahran said he was disappointed that the HEC did not ‎highlight how it would oblige candidates to adhere to the ‎regulations and prevent them from raising religious ‎slogans, using places of worship for campaign purposes ‎and keeping within the ceilings set for campaign spending.‎

Mohamed Abdel-Alim Dawoud, a leading official with the ‎Wafd party, also told Ahram Online that the HEC's press ‎conference came free of any details that would make sure ‎that the polls are held in a free and fair climate. ‎

‎"The HEC's Abbas said nothing about how the government would ‎stay neutral during the election process and how the polls ‎would be monitored to ensure transparency and fairness," ‎said Dawoud.‎

Abbas said "the HEC took all the measures necessary to ‎guarantee that the election process would be marked with ‎integrity, equality and respect for the will of the voters." ‎

Abbas also indicated that the coming polls would be the last ‎for the HEC to supervise.‎

‎"According to the new constitution, the HEC will change into ‎the National Election Commission (NEC) which will be ‎supervising all kinds of elections and referendums," said ‎Abbas, adding that "as a result, the HEC will do its best to ‎ensure that its supervision of the coming polls is a good end ‎to its job."‎

Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and ‎Development Party, however, remarked that “while ‎political parties complained that preparations for the polls ‎took a long time, they are surprised that the HEC decided that ‎registration begins just two days after its press ‎conference."

"The HEC should have held its press conference ‎at least one week ahead of the registration date," said ‎Sadat, indicating that "new candidates in the first stage ‎would find themselves in a rush to finalise their registration ‎papers in a short period of time."

When the door of registration for parliamentary polls ‎opened in March, a record number of around 7,500 ‎candidates were able to apply. Political experts ‎expect this number will increase when the door opens ‎again this week, even if the 87-year old Muslim ‎Brotherhood and some its Islamist allies would not be part of ‎the process- at least openly.‎

Zahran said members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ‎political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, cannot ‎register because the group was designated a "terrorist ‎organisation" – in December 2013 and the party was ‎dissolved a few months after.‎

‎“Most of the group's leading officials, including its former ‎high-profile MPs and former president Mohamed Morsi, ‎have been arrested and if any of their members decide to ‎run they will face mass rejection from the people,” Zahran added.‎

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said last year that ‎‎"if any of the group's members were able to infiltrate the ‎coming parliament, the people would move to expel ‎them."‎

Some of the group's allies such as Gamaa Islamiya's ‎Development and Construction Party or the Fadilla ‎‎(Virtue) Party or the Asala (Authenticity) Party, whose ‎leaders fled to Turkey and Qatar, will not run.‎

The ultraconservative salafist Nour Party will be the ‎only Islamist force allowed to compete in the elections. But the party is ‎currently facing a secular campaign under the name of ‎‎"No to religious parties", aiming to dissolve it in line with ‎article 74 of the constitution which bans the formation of ‎political parties on religious grounds.‎

Although rocked by internal divisions in recent months, ‎most non-Islamist political parties said they will either run ‎on their own or as part of an electoral coalition.

A number ‎of electoral coalitions have been formed including ‎‎"For the Love of Egypt and the Egyptian Wafd coalition", ‎the Egyptian Front coalition", "the Reawakening of Egypt ‎coalition", "the Independence Current coalition", and the ‎‎"Social Justice coalition."
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