Second round voting to begin in Giza’s crucial 2nd district

Zeinab El Gundy, Tuesday 13 Dec 2011

Voters in Imbaba, Agouza, Dokki to decide between Islamist and liberal candidates in 2nd round of polling on Wednesday and Thursday

electoral posters
A man walks past electoral posters in Giza on the outskirts of Cairo (Photo: AP)

In less than 24 hours, Egyptians will head to the polls to cast votes in Giza’s crucial second district, which includes Imbaba, Agouza and Dokki and boasts a diverse cross-section of voters, from working class to upper-middle class social segments.

The competition will pit two rival candidates against each other for the professional seat for individual candidacies: the Islamist Amr Daraag versus the liberal Amr El-Shobky.

El-Shobky is a prominent political analyst. Although he is a member of the centrist El-Adl Party’s advisory committee, he is nevertheless running on an independent ticket. A darling of the media, El-Shobky is popular in the district.

Daraag, for his part, is a professor of mechanical engineering at Cairo University and secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the Giza Governorate.

According to Daraag’s official Facebook page, the FJP has halted campaigning in Giza’s second district in line with Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) regulations barring campaigning two days before the vote. Daraag’s campaign managers have issued clear instructions to refrain from last-minute campaigning and the use of religious slogans outside polling stations on Wednesday and Thursday.

The El-Shobky campaign made a similar announcement on its official Facebook page on the same day. One of the main violations recorded by the SEC in the first round of voting had been campaigning outside polling stations.

FJP candidates’ electoral campaigns are the most conspicuous, marked by enormous banners and posters, along with booths in several areas of the district and printed flyers laying out the party’s political program.

The liberal Egyptian Bloc, meanwhile, announced its decision to withdraw its candidate for the district’s professional seat, Sheikh Tarek El-Rafai, so as not to split the liberal vote. On the other hand, the ultra-conservative Salafist Calling similarly withdrew its candidate, Sheikh Mahmoud El-Shahata, so as not to split the Islamist vote. The Salafist Nour Party, however, has not pulled its candidate in an effort to support Daarag.

While Daraag and El-Shobky represent the district’s two most high-profile contenders, other candidates in the district include those of the Revolution Continues (RC) electoral coalition, which hopes to perform better than it did in the first round of voting. Unlike other electoral alliances, the RC supports two candidates for the district’s professional seat: Amr Ezz and Abdel Rahman Haridy. Some critics fear the move will split the liberal vote in the face of stiff competition from the FJP and the Salafist Nour Party.

Despite the dismantlement earlier this year of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), several former NDP members will contest elections through recently-established parties such as the Conservatives Party.

When it comes to seats reserved for party lists, the race is more interesting since – aside from the rivalry between the Freedom and Justice list, the Egyptian Bloc and the Nour list –two other lists will compete this time around: the RC list and the Wasat list. While the RC list claims to represent Egypt’s young revolutionary forces, the Wasat list is topped by popular former footballer Nader El-Sayid, who supported the revolution from the outset and has been politically active ever since.

Campaign posters now plaster the district’s main streets and squares, whether in Imbaba, Agouza or Dokki. Electoral campaigns have relied mostly on “public meetings” with would-be voters at local cafes and the distribution of campaign flyers.

As in the first stage of voting, FJP campaigners, standing with laptops outside mosques and sports clubs, are helping voters find polling stations. Throughout the day, cars and pickups equipped with enormous speakers cruise the streets of Imbaba, Agouza and Dokki, blasting songs and urging voters to cast their ballots for their respective candidates.

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