The National Election Authority (NEA) announced this week that the window for candidate registration in Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary polls will close on 26 September.
“First-instance courts in Egypt’s 27 governorates will receive nomination papers every day from 9am to 5pm, except on the final Saturday when candidate papers must be submitted before 2pm,” said NEA Chairman Lasheen Ibrahim.
The registration window has been open since17 September. Candidates need to be Egyptian nationals aged 25 years or above and have completed their basic education and military service.
The two-stage poll kicks off on 21 October and ends 8 December. Of the 568 seats up for grabs, 284 will be filled by candidates elected via the individual candidacy system, and 284 seats through closed party lists.
More than 2,000 people have already registered as independents, and political parties have been scrambling to form coalitions ahead of the poll. The compiling of party lists has been complicated by differences among coalition members, with party leaders squabbling over levels of representation.
The National Unified List coalition, led by the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party, was forced to delay submitting applications until the end of this week. Sources said internal divisions in member parties, including the Wafd and the Free Egyptians, had made it impossible to submit a final list of candidates on Sunday, as originally planned.
The Wafd, Egypt’s oldest political party, is currently split into two rival camps with opposing views on the party’s participation in the parliamentary poll.
Wafd Chairman Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka said on Sunday that it was essential the party compete in the parliamentary elections.
“I met with the party’s secretary-general Fouad Badrawi and underlined the importance of maintaining unity ahead of the vote. A majority of the party’s Higher Council members, 32 out of total 60, agree that the Wafd should run in the seats reserved for party list candidates as part of the National Unified coalition,” said Abu Shoka.
The party’s deputy chairman Mohamed Abdou, however, said internal divisions that have recently rocked the party would persist until internal elections are held to choose a new chairman.
Contradicting Abu Shoka, Abdou said in a TV interview on Saturday that a majority of Higher Council members opposed the decision to stand as part of the Mostaqbal Watan-led National Unified List.
“The party chairman made his decision even though the list will include just 19 Wafd candidates,” said Abdou.
According to Abdou, a majority of members are pushing for a minimum of 40 candidates on the list “but Mostaqbal Watan wants to monopolise most of the seats at the expense of other political parties.”
Abu Shoka has said internal elections to elect a new chairman will be held on 4 December and in the meantime, as far as parliamentary elections go, the Wafd will participate as part of the National Unified List and candidates who fail to make the list can then run as individuals.
Internal divisions have also hit the Free Egyptians Party. Ayman Abul-Ela, the party’s parliamentary spokesperson, resigned last week to protest party chairman Essam Khalil’s decision to join the National Unified List. He pointed out that the Free Egyptians Party won the largest number of seats in the 2015 parliament and argued that it was capable of standing alone. Khalil insisted that joining the National Unified List came at the request of the majority of party members. As yet it is unclear which faction will get its way.
The Mostaqbal Watan-led list, which will compete in the poll under the slogan “for the sake of Egypt”, currently has 13 members — the Mostaqbal Watan, the Wafd, the Guardians of the Nation, Modern Egypt, the Egyptian Social Democratic, the People’s Republican, Reform and Development, the Tagammu, Generation’s Will, the Egyptian Freedom, Justice and Congress parties.
Unlike in the Senate elections, when its candidates stood unopposed, the National Unified list will face competition from other coalitions. Hisham Al-Anani, leader of the Alliance of the Independents, says the coalition comprises five political forces: the Independents, Araby, Justice and Equality, Voice of the People and the Victory parties.
“The coalition has already selected the names of the candidates who will contest the 284 party list seats,” said Al-Anani. “Some are prominent public figures such as Amr Abdel-Hakim Amer, the son of a former Field Marshal Sabri Serag, deputy chairman of Zamalek Sporting Club, and Nahla Abdel-Aziz, chairman of TV Channel Two.”
A coalition of leftist political parties, the Civilian Movement, has also announced it will contest the elections. Kamal Abu Eita, a leftist activist and a former minister of labour, said the coalition will field candidates as individuals rather than compete in the seats reserved for party lists.
“We haven’t been able to form a coalition capable of contesting the 284 seats allocated to party lists,” said Abu Eita. “The NEA’s decision to begin registration on 17 September took us by surprise and it proved impossible in the short time allotted to forge a credible coalition.”
The parties gathered beneath the Civilian Movement umbrella, from which individual candidates will be drawn, are Karama (Dignity), the Popular Socialist Alliance, the Constitution party and the Bread and Freedom Party.
Medhat Al-Zahed, head of the Popular Socialist Alliance, said the Civilian Movement will publish its platform next week, and will “call for political reform, the release of political prisoners, greater freedoms and social justice”.
The Egyptian National Movement coalition says it is looking to contest seats reserved for both individuals and party lists.
The coalition is led by former Alexandria governor Tarek Al-Mahdi and is expected to include the Conservatives, Ittihad (Union), Revolution and Nahdet Masr (the Renaissance of Egypt) parties. Coalition spokesperson Yasser Qora said on Sunday the National Movement hopes to submit candidates for both party list and individual seats before the deadline on Saturday.
“We hope that the election will be competitive and that ceilings will be placed on campaign expenses to guarantee the integrity and fairness of the poll,” said Qora.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly