Leaders of Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) announced on Thursday that their party received almost 40 per cent of the votes in the first round of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls.
“This good performance means the FJP is capable of obtaining a majority in the incoming parliament and forming a government,” said FJP chairman and former Brotherhood MP Mohamed Morsi.
Preliminary results also show that Salafist parties – which espouse an ultra-conservative brand of Islam – were the main rivals to FJP candidates, receiving no less than 20 per cent of the vote.
According to press reports, Islamist parties in general may have captured as many as 120 seats out of a total of 168 seats up for grabs in the first stage.
Following the Islamists came the liberal-oriented Egyptian Bloc, which includes the leftist Tagammu Party, the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party and the Free Egyptians, founded by Coptic billionaire Naguib Sawiris. The Bloc’s performance was surprising to many as it beat out old liberal forces, such as the Wafd Party.
Holdovers from ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), meanwhile, made an unexpectedly poor showing. A large number of former NDP MPs, fielded by NDP offshoots such as the Horreya Party, lost in the first round.
In the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assuit, for instance, NDP veteran Mohamed Abdel-Mohsen Saleh suffered a massive defeat, while former NDP MP Omar Haridi also lost heavily. Also in Assuit, however, six former NDP MPs made good showings and have qualified for run-offs in the second round on 5 December.
In Alexandria, former leading NDP official and construction magnate Tarek Talaat Mostafa gave an impressive performance against reformist judge Mahmoud El-Khodeiri.
In general, initial results show that voters are still governed by old attitudes and that Egypt’s January revolution has failed to change the public mindset in favour of a new generation of young candidates.
As a result, several Mubarak-era MPs – of different political backgrounds – were able to win seats in the first round. These include Mostafa Bakri, a Nasserist journalist (in South Cairo’s Helwan district); Akram El-Shaer, a former Brotherhood MP (in Port Said); and Mohamed Abdel-Alim Dawoud, a former Wafd MP (in the Kafr El-Sheikh governorate’s Fiwa district).
Several former MPs also qualified for the second runoff round. Among these is El-Badria Farghali, a former Tagammu MP (in Port Said); Hussein Ibrahim, a former Brotherhood MP (in Alexandria); and Haydar Baghdadi, a former NDP MP (in Cairo’s Gamaliya district).
A number of new faces, however, made good showings. Amr Hamzawy, a political analyst with the US-based Carnegie Institute, won the seat for East Cairo’s Heliopolis district. Others will contest run-off rounds, such as Mostafa El-Naggar, chairman of the newly-licensed Adl (Justice) Party and reformist judge Mahmoud El-Khodeiri (in Alexandria).
On the other hand, some new “revolutionary faces” lost in the first round. Among these are George Ishak, founder of the Kifaya protest movement, in Port Said; and Gamila Ismail, a political activist and ex-wife of opposition leader Ayman Nour, in Cairo’s downtown Qasr El-Nil district.
In general, Islamists made good showings in seven out of the nine governorates contested in the first stage. Alexandria, a long-time Islamist stronghold, remained tight in their grip. The cosmopolitan Mediterranean city was swamped by the Brotherhood’s FJP and Salafist candidates.
It did not change much that the silent majority – the so-called “couch party” – decided to turn out in the millions to cast their votes. Islamists opted not to issue appeals to ordinary citizens via television and the Internet, but rather through daily tours of slum areas and poor districts. They made use of their wide-scale network of mosques to offer services to poor citizens and set up a variety of charitable organisations for the needy.
By contrast, the liberals suffered strong divisions and failed to join forces into one bloc. The Wafd Party, led by businessman El-Sayed El-Badawi and served by the Hayat television channel, suffered a big loss.
If Islamists maintain their strong performance in the second and third stages of voting, which includes primarily rural governorates, they will likely manage to clinch between 50 and 60 per cent, while liberals, leftist and old NDP diehards will together get just 40 per cent.
On Friday, Judge Abdel-Moez Ibrahim will announce final results of the first round. Most indications suggest that voter turnout stood at some 70 per cent for the first round – far higher than the 23 per cent registered in the first round of 2005 parliamentary elections.
The run-off stage will be held next Monday, 5 December, with predictions that some 60 per cent of independent candidates will be obliged to face a second round of voting.