On Saturday Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal announced that elections for the House of Representatives are likely to be held in November 2020.
“The five-year life of the current parliament will come to an end on 9 January 2021. Article 106 of the constitution requires elections for a new parliament to be held within the 60 days preceding 9 January 2021, which means elections can be held in November 2020,” said Abdel-Aal.
Elections in November next year will not affect the five-year term of the current parliament which will be able to continue to meet until its term officially expires at noon, 9 January.
It will make 2020 an election heavy year, with polls for the House of Representatives, the Senate and possibly for local councils, though some MPs now expect the latter election to be postponed to 2021.
Abdel-Aal’s announcement served to kick-start election preparations among political parties.
Yasser Al-Hodeibi, spokesperson of the Wafd Party, said on 25 November that his party was already in consultation with political forces over the possibility of creating a liberal coalition.
“The Wafd’s preparations are not confined to contesting parliamentary and local council elections,” said Al-Hodeibi. “The coming polls must be competitive, and we believe a liberal coalition can help a lot in achieving this.
“A competitive election will reactivate political life, bolster democracy and reinforce stability.”
Wafd Party Chairman Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka last week announced an initiative directed at “all political parties that believe in liberal democracy.
“We should form a coalition now and hold public rallies to discuss the problems citizens face in their daily lives. We need to gain ground ahead of the polls next year if we are to win a healthy number of seats in the new parliament.”
Coordination between liberal political parties during the 2014 elections resulted in 13 political parties espousing liberal platforms winning 225 seats out of a total of 596.
Mohamed Farag, assistant secretary-general of the Tagammu Party, also believes parties will have to join forces in order to win seats. He called on “all leftist and socialist forces to join together and stand on a single platform”.
In 2014 five leftist parties won just nine seats between them.
In a recent poll conducted by the National Centre for Social and Criminal Studies 48 per cent of respondents said they did not believe political parties will be able to put up much of a showing in parliamentary elections.
The poll, published in Al-Ahram on 25 November, was heavily criticised by party leaders.
Guardians of the Nation Party head Galal Haridi said his party had been able to win 18 seats in 2014, “since which time we have been moving on different fronts to prepare for the 2020 election. The problem,” he continued, “is that the media ignores the grassroots activities political parties carry out on the street.”
Al-Hodeibi was less sanguine about the opinion poll, arguing its findings should ring alarm bells about the weaknesses of political life in Egypt.
“There are 104 licensed political parties in Egypt right now, no more than seven of which can be deemed remotely effective. And the fact that the performance of the current parliament was generally weak could cause the public to lose whatever faith they have in political life in general.”
It is to prevent this from happening, said Al-Hodeibi, that the Wafd Party has called on political forces with similar platforms to join together in coalitions.
Akmal Qortam, the businessman head of the Conservatives Party, told a public rally in Damanhour on 23 November that it will be a disaster if voters ignore next year’s parliamentary elections.
“The nation’s political life is weak and there is a real danger the public will just switch off when it comes to voting. Political parties and the state need to work together, starting now, to introduce sweeping political reforms.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Pre-election pessimism