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Thursday, 26 November 2020

Parliamentary elections

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial , Thursday 22 Oct 2020
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Some 63 million registered voters are eligible to take part in the upcoming Egyptian House of Representatives elections which will be monitored by an international group consisting of seven NGOs from Europe, Africa and the Middle East, along with local partners among Egyptian rights advocacy organisations. In accordance with the comprehensive guarantees for the fairness and integrity of the polls established by the National Elections Authority (NEA), the elections will be fully supervised by the Egyptian judiciary, with a judge in every polling station, and the ballots will be tabulated in the presence of representatives from the candidates, the press and civil society organisations. The NEA has also provided for Covid-19 precautions at the polls, such as social distancing. 

The first stage of voting in Egypt begins on 24 and 25 October and the runoffs for this stage are scheduled for 23 and 24 November. The second stage of voting will take place 7 and 8 November with the runoffs held on 7 and 8 December. The House of Representatives’ 568 seats are contested every five years by direct secret ballot. The president has the power to appoint up to five per cent of the MPs. Of the remaining seats, 284 are contested on the basis of the single ticket system and 284 are contested using the closed electoral list system in four constituencies, two contesting 100 seats each and another two contesting 42 seats each. 

Many political parties and forces agree that holding legislative elections at this time, despite Covid-19, reflects the government’s commitment to its political pledges to the Egyptian public, just as its commitments to economic and social development have been marked by its victories in the battle for economic recovery and the battle against terrorism and the anti-Egyptian propaganda disseminated by hostile regional powers that want to reinstate the Muslim Brotherhood in politics and destabilise the country again. This is the fifth national electoral process since 30 June 2013, giving Egyptians the freedom to take part in the formation of the institutions of the civil state that all are keen to bolster in the face of difficult challenges. 

Observers anticipate that the “For the Sake of Egypt” list, a 12-party alliance headed by the Mostaqbal Watan (Future of the Homeland) Party, will garner the largest share of seats in the new House of Representatives as was the case in the first Senate elections that concluded several weeks ago. In keeping with appeals from Egyptian leaders, political forces have moved to merge parties and build alliances as a means to invigorate parliament and render participant political parties and blocs more efficient and effective in the processes of legislation and oversight. The new political party structures have also opened political party participation to large numbers of young people who now account for up to 80 per cent of members in Mostaqbal Watan and some smaller parties. This ratio has been reflected in the “For the Sake of Egypt” list, which is an exclusively electoral arrangement that helps introduce the most talented members of this 12-party coalition into parliament. After the elections, MPs will be free to advocate their particular parties’ policies and positions. 

One of the great gains of the 30 June Revolution has been release from the trap of Islamist parties. Although these parties cast themselves as civil entities, they quickly betrayed their religious-ideological affiliations and agendas. The Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government collapsed when the Egyptian people realised its aim was to construct a totalitarian state and alter Egyptian identity. After the grassroots uprising that ousted them, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies fought a vicious battle to regain power and, in the process, revealed the other face of such totalitarian entities through their advocacy and practice of violence. 

Despite many difficulties and hardships, the majority of the Egyptian public supports the current course of the civil state. The people have endured a gruelling experience that nearly tore the country apart due to sectarian and ideological tensions of a magnitude unmatched in modern Egyptian history. Egypt’s post-revolutionary parliamentary history bears testimony to a dynamic process of reconstruction. Like all construction processes, there may be some concerns and drawbacks. However, the positive factors that are propelling towards success and progress merit objective appraisal and encouragement.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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