Cairo, East Delta brace for tough race among 4 party lists in Egypt elections
Gamal Essam El-Din, , Tuesday 10 Nov 2015
Three secular electoral coalitions and one Islamist party brace for tough competition to win 45 seats reserved to the constituency of Cairo and the east Nile Delta

The second stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections, which covers 13 governorates between 21 November and 2 December, will take place in Cairo and six densely-populated Nile delta governorates. The voter turnout is not expected to be high, however.

Omar Marawan, the spokesperson of the Higher Election Committee (HEC) in charge of supervising the polls, told a press conference on 5 November that the second stage will include some 28.2 million registered voters – or almost one million more than the first stage, which included 27.5 million voters.

Marawan told reporters that "although most of the governorates in the second stage are densely populated ones, please do not expect long queues standing in front of the polling stations."

"The reason is that the number of auxiliary polling stations in these governorates has increased by three thousand in three years, or from 9,834 in 2012's poll to 12,946 in 2015," said Marawan.

He continued to say that as many as 222 seats will be up for competition among 2,847 independent candidates in the second stage.

"This number could decrease or increase before voting day," he said, adding that as many as 60 seats will be up for grabs among party-based candidates in the second stage: the 45-seat Cairo, South and Middle and North Delta constituency, and the 15-seat East Delta constituency.

The electoral coalition entitled For the Love of Egypt has almost won the 15-seat Nile East Delta constituency (including the governorates of Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, and North and South Sinai) as it is the only party list which successfully registered there. It has to secure 5 percent of the vote in this constituency to be officially declared the winner.

In the Cairo, South, Middle and North Nile Delta constituency (including the governorates of Cairo, Qalioubiya, Daqahliyya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya and Kafr El-Sheikh), the competition will be tough as four party lists are competing strongly to win the 45 seats reserved for this province.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition, widely believed to be loyal to Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, is eager to win the second stage's 60 party list seats after it had won the 60 seats allocated to the first stage.

While the coalition, which includes 13 political parties, is sure to win the 15-seat East Delta constituency, it will be facing a hard battle in the 45-seat Cairo and Nile Delta constituency against three rival party lists: the Independence Current and National Movement Party alliance, the Republican Alliance of Social Forces, and the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, which is the only Islamist force contesting the polls.

The For Love of Egypt list in Cairo and the Nile Delta includes a number of high profile figures such as Sameh Seif El-Yazal, the coalition's coordinator and former intelligence officer; Osama Heikal, chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC) and a former information minister; Kamal Amer, a former army intelligence chief, Taher Abu Zeid, a former sports minister; Ahmed Said, a former MP and chairman of the Free Egyptians Party; Tarek El-Khouli, a former spokesman for the revolutionary 6th of April movement; Mahmoud Badr, founder of the Tamarod movement; and Margaret Azaer, a former Wafdist MP.

Mostafa Bakri, a journalist who won a seat in the first stage, told parliamentary reporters on 7 November that "if the coalition won all the 120 seats reserved to party lists, it would be able to form a majority bloc of civilian forces supportive of President El-Sisi in the coming parliament."

Bakri also said that the coalition was not alone in winning the first stage's 60 party list seats, but independent candidates affiliated with political parties forming part of the coalition were also able to win around 120 seats.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition has come under fire in recent days from Tahani El-Gibali, a former judge and coordinator of the rival Republican Alliance of Social Forces. El-Gibali warned in a public statement last week "that it would be a big setback if the For the Love of Egypt coalition won all the 120 party list seats."

"Our alliance is against the return to political life of remnants of the former Hosni Mubarak regime and Muslim Brotherhood activists," she said, insisting that "the list of the For the Love of Egypt coalition's candidates in the second stage includes as many as 38 people who were affiliated with Mubarak's now defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and are currently squandering a lot of political money to buy votes."

"This is a bad development for Egypt's political life and we all should stand united to counter this trend," she said.

El-Gibali stressed that the "Republican Alliance stands against Mubarak's NDP and Islamist forces alike," whom she described as "the merchants of politics and religion."

The list of the Republican Alliance's party-based candidates includes El-Gibali; Hossam Kheir Allah, a former deputy chairman in Egyptian intelligence and a 2012 presidential candidate; journalist Hossam Hazem; Egyptian TV host and producer Atef Kamel; and former governor of the Central Bank of Egypt and a former MP Fayeka El-Rifaei.

"The list includes 29 female candidates, nine young candidates and others representing farmers and workers," El-Gibali said.

The Independence Current and the Egyptian Front alliance, which includes 40 political parties, is primarily affiliated with Mubarak's NDP.

It is mainly composed of Misr Baladi (Egypt my Homeland), a political party founded by Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, and the National Movement party, founded by Qadri Abu Hussein, a former Mubarak-era provincial governor. Independent candidates affiliated with the two Mubarak-era parties won only three seats in the first stage.

Abu Hussein told Ahram Online that "the alliance has high hopes that it will compensate the losses in the first stage and win the 45-seat Cairo and Delta constituency in the second stage because most of our candidates are former MPs who have wide-scale popularity and experience."

Like El-Gibali, Abu Hussein said it would be very bad if one electoral coalition won all the party list seats.

"The party list MPs should be affiliated with different political forces so that we can have a diverse and balanced parliament," said Abu Hussein.

The alliance's list includes some public figures such as Ahmed El-Fadalli, chairman of the Democratic Peace party; Nagi El-Shehabi, chairman of the Generation Party, Samir Zaher, a former head of the Egyptian Football Association; journalist Mahmoud Maarouf; and former Sinai female MPs Galila Awad and Sanaa Gilbana.

The Salafist Nour Party, which suffered a stunning defeat in the first stage, is also trying its best in the second stage to compensate some of the loss. Nour, which got only eight seats in the first stage, is not only competing to win the 45-seat Cairo and Nile Delta constituency, but it also has 73 candidates running as independents.

Salah Abdel-Maaboud, a leading Nour official, told Ahram Online that the party will have 10 candidates running as independents in Cairo.

"In terms of party lists, we have high hopes that millions of voters in the rural Nile Delta will be in favour of Nour," said Abdel-Maaboud.

Topping the list of Nour candidates in the second stage are the party's deputy chairman Bassam El-Zarqa and former Nour MPs Mohamed Azab, El-Sayed Khalifa and Abdel-Halim El-Gammal.

Nour's battle in the second stage will not be an easy task. The campaign entitled No to Religious Parties said it will step up its moves aimed at urging citizens not to vote for Nour. The campaign said it would hold a press conference on Wednesday to alert citizens to the danger of voting for Nour. The campaign has accused Nour of fielding former Muslim Brotherhood officials on its lists.