Egypt's Alexandria braces for fierce battles in parliament election's runoffs

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 25 Oct 2015

Tough competition in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria will feature prominently in the run-off round of the first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections

Police ask women to fold their flags before allowing them into a school used as voting centre in Alexandria, Egypt, October 18, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

The run-off round of the first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections, which covers 14 governorates, will be fierce in Alexandria. As many as 50 independent candidates hailing from different political camps will be competing for 25 individual seats in Egypt's second biggest city that constitutes a population around 4 million.

The total number of candidates in the first stage stood at 298, reflecting the high diversity of political parties competing in Alexandria, a city with around 2.5 million registered voters.

It is not yet clear whether the constituency of Al-Raml will take part in the run-off round as Alexandria's Administrative Justice Court ruled on 22 October that the results of the first round last week must be invalidated due to the presence of a disqualified candidate – businessman Ali Elba – on the ballot. The court ordered that re-elections take place within a period of 60 days.

Al-Raml constituency is allocated four seats in parliament and, if excluded from the run-off election scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, the total number of independent candidates in Alexandria would decrease to 42, competing for 21 seats.

The newly founded party known as "The Future of a Homeland,” widely believed to be supported by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, will be at the top in terms of number of candidates.

It will have six individuals in the runoffs in six constituencies in Alexandria. Next comes the Free Egyptians Party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, with five individual candidates.

The ultraconservative Salafist Nour party will have three candidates, followed by one from the liberal Al-Wafd and one from the liberal Conference party, founded by former foreign minister Amr Moussa.

Two former leading officials with former president Hosni Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) will also join the run-off battle in Alexandria.

In the densely populated district of Moharrem Bey and Ghorbal, east of Alexandria, the leftist candidate Haitham El-Hariri will be competing against Mamdouh Hosni, a former Alexandria NDP official.

El-Hariri won 24,000 votes in the first round, while Hosni garnered 12,500 votes only. Amr Kamal and Amer Fikri, two individual candidates affiliated with "The Future of A Homeland" and the "Conference" political parties, will also be competing in this district.

Salafist candidates 

In West Alexandria's constituency of Al-Ameriyya and Borg Al-Arab, three Salafist Al-Nour candidates – Ahmed Khalil, Ahmed Al-Sharif, and Zarie Meneisy – will try their best to win seats in a bid to make up for the party's big debacle in the first round last week. Al-Nour's list of party-based candidates competing for the 15-seat Nile West Delta constituency lost to the pro-Sisi "For the Love of Egypt" coalition.

Al-Ameriya and Borg Al-Arab, a desert area populated by tribes loyal to the Salafist movement, are considered Al-Nour's main power base in Alexandria.

Al-Nour's candidates in the second run-off battle stand at a total 25 in 14 governorates. Its big loss in the first round in the first stage led to internal divisions, with many of the party's officials urging its chairman – Younis Makhyoun – to "save the party's face" and withdraw from the race.

Nour’s individual candidates face fierce competition from Rizq Dief Allah, a former NDP and agricultural businessman. Dief Allah got the highest number of votes in the first round (around 38,000) in Al-Ameriya, while Al-Nour candidates followed with 33,500 and 31,000 votes, respectively.

They also face Ahmed Sakkar, an independent fielded by the Free Egyptians party, who got 10,000 votes in last week's first round.

All in all, six individual candidates will be competing for three seats reserved for Al-Ameriya and Borg Al-Arab constituency.

In Al-Dikheila, another West Alexandria constituency, Al-Nour's candidate Ashraf Abdel-Dayem, will be facing independent candidate Mostafa Al-Talakhawy.

In downtown Alexandria's constituency of Al-Attarin, Kamal Ahmed, a former long-time Nasserist firebrand MP, will be facing a fierce battle against independent businessman Ibrahim Hassan.

Ahmed's long parliamentary history goes back to the days of late president Anwar El-Sadat in 1976. Ahmed, alongside other radical leftists, was a fierce critic of the peace treaty with Israel in 1978 – a fact that led Sadat to dissolve parliament and announce new elections in 1979.

Another downtown Alexandria constituency – Karmooz – will see just two candidates competing for one seat. They are Sami Ramadan – a former NDP official and chairman of West Alexandria's city council – and businessman Magdi Afifi, an independent affiliated with the low-key Free Constitutional Party.

Afifi, an industrialist of spare automobile parts, was a former member of the defunct upper house of Shura Council.

In East Alexandria's Sidi Gaber and Bab Shark constituency, six independent candidates will be competing for three seats. Competition will be mainly intense between Tarek Al-Sayed, an independent affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party, and Hosni Hafez, an independent affiliated with Al-Wafd party.

In West Alexandria's district of Al-Montazah First, Al-Nour's Abdel-Halim Mahrous will face a tough battle against Ibrahim Abdel-Wahab, an independent affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party, and Abdel-Fattah Mohamed, an independent affiliated with the "Future of a Homeland" party.

All in all, eight individual candidates will be competing for four seats reserved to Alexandria's Montaza First constituency.

In Montaza Second constituency, six individual candidates are competing for three seats.

In the commercial constituency of Mina El-Bassal, Ashraf Rashad Othman, a businessman affiliated with the Free Egyptians party, will re-run against three independent candidates.

All in all, five individual candidates are competing for two seats reserved to Mina El-Bassal.

The Free Egyptians Party candidate is the son of Rashad Othman, a former NDP businessman who was expelled from parliament in 1979 after he and the late president Sadat's brother, Talaat, were found guilty of amassing an illegal fortune from custom tariffs in Alexandria seaport.

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