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Egypt Senate run-off: Belated competition

Fifty-two candidates compete for 26 seats in next week’s Senate run-off elections

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 1 Sep 2020
Belated competition
The run-offs are expected to see strong competition (photo: Reuters)
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The National Election Authority (NEA) has announced that 52 nominees will battle for 26 seats in the run-off round of the Senate elections. The polls will be held on 6 and 7 September for Egyptians abroad, and 8 and 9 September for resident nationals.

Of the 74 individual candidates who won seats in the first round, the NEA said 68 were affiliated with the Mostaqbal Watan (Future of Homeland) Party.

“In the run-off round 52 candidates will compete, 24 affiliated with Mostaqbal Watan, four with the Islamist Nour Party, three with the Guardians of the Nation Party, two with the People’s Republican Party, one with the Congress Party, one with the National Movement Party, and one with the Ittihad (union) party,” said the NEA statement.

The remaining 16 independent candidates are without any party affiliation.

Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie says independents made a relatively strong showing in the first round. “While 16 independents qualified for the run-off round, three independents, all of them Copts, won seats in the first round: Rafaat Kamal Zaki Soos and Hadi Louis Bibawi Morgan in Cairo, and Nashaat Metri Guindi in Alexandria.

No female candidates will contest the run-offs.

“In the first round 20 women won seats as candidates on the National Unified List led by Mostaqbal Watan Party,” says Rabie, but given that the law stipulates 10 per cent of the Senate’s 300 seats be occupied by women, “the president will be obliged to appoint the remaining 10.”

Run-offs will be held in 14 of Egypt’s 27 governorates: Qalioubiya, Damietta, Kafr El-Sheikh, Menoufiya, Beni Sweif, Qena, Sohag, Luxor, Aswan, Giza, Assiut, Matrouh, Port Said and Ismailia.

In the first round Mostaqbal Watan won all the individual seats in nine governorates: Daqahliya, Fayoum, Minya, Beheira, Sharqiya, New Valley, Suez and North and South Sinai. Mostaqbal Watan also won the majority of seats in the governorates of Cairo, Qalioubiya, Gharbiya, Giza, Beni Sweif and Alexandria.

“While the National Unified List led by the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party won the 100 seats reserved for party lists unopposed, there was also little competition for the 100 seats reserved for individual candidates,” says Rabie. He argues that the National Unified List candidates might as well be considered as appointees rather than elected delegates.

“People knew in advance that the National Unified List would win, it was standing unopposed after all, and so they did not bother to turn out. This explains why just 14 per cent of Egypt’s 62.94 million voters cast their ballots during the four-day voting period.

“And even of those who did vote, 15.42 per cent ballot papers were spoiled.”

On 26 August the NEA announced that 53.99 million eligible voters had not turned out to vote in the first round.  

Rabie believes the turnout could be higher in the run-off round even though the competition will be confined to 14 governorates because “the battle between independent candidates is usually competitive, attracting larger numbers of voters.”

In Qalioubiya governorate the Mostaqbal Watan candidate Abu Serri Imam faces an uphill battle against independent candidate Khaled Irman. In Damietta another fierce battle is raging between the Mostaqbal Watan candidate Ahmed El-Balshi and National Movement candidate Hamdi Shalabi.

In Kafr Al-Sheikh four candidates affiliated with the Islamist Nour Party are pitted against Mostaqbal Watan candidates. 

Campaigning for run-offs began on 20 August and will continue until 5 September.

Once the 26 seats in the run-off round are filled, it will be up to the president to appoint the remaining 100 senators.

The results of the run-off round are due to be announced on 16 September. The Senate will

Include 300 members, a third elected via individual candidacy, a third through the closed party list system, and a third appointed by the president. 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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