Fighting for a seat

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 29 Sep 2020

Hopes are growing that the forthcoming parliamentary elections will be fair and fierce

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On Monday the National Election Authority (NEA) released an initial list of candidates standing in parliamentary elections. NEA head Lasheen Ibrahim said the papers of 4,006 individual candidates and eight coalition lists had been accepted and that, pending appeals, a final list will be announced on 5 October.

Ibrahim indicated that dozens of candidacy applications had been rejected. “Some candidates failed to submit the required papers, others had not performed their military service, and some tested positive for drugs,” said Ibrahim.

That more than 4,000 individual candidates and eight coalition lists had successfully registered was welcomed by political observers.

“This is completely different from the Senate election in which just 762 individual candidates and a single coalition list competed,” said Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie. “The Senate election competition and voter turnout consequently was low. A majority of political parties showed no interest in standing which led the Mostaqbal Watan coalition to win all the party list seats unopposed.”

Gamal Zahran, a political science professor at Suez University and a former independent MP, said the large number of individual candidates was unprecedented.

“In previous elections the number of individual candidates did not exceed 3,000. In this one we have a new record, suggesting the poll will be very competitive and the turnout could be high.”

Zahran is also reassured that four political coalitions will be contesting the 284 seats reserved for party lists. “In the Senate poll a single coalition won the party list seats unopposed. Now we will have a healthy battle.”

Egypt has been divided into four party list districts: Cairo and the Middle and South Delta (100 seats); North, Middle and South Upper Egypt (100 seats); Eastern Delta (42 seats) and Western Delta (42 seats).

The National Unified List coalition led by the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party will stand in all four districts. The Mostaqbal Watan-led coalition was able to win 70 per cent of seats during the Senate election in August and September. Candidates on the Mostaqbal Watan coalition list, as released on 24 September, include Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, Deputy Speaker Al-Sayed Al-Sherif, first deputy chairman of Mostaqbal Watan Ashraf Rashad, Alaa Abed, head of the House’s Human Rights Committee, Ahmed Samir, head of the Economic Affairs Committee, Ayman Abul-Ela, the former parliamentary speaker of the Free Egyptians Party, and Ahmed Saadeddin, former secretary-general of the House of Representatives.

Hossam Al-Khouli, deputy chairman of the Mostaqbal Watan Party, said in a TV interview that the National Unified List led by his party includes candidates from different ideological platforms. “We have candidates representing 12 political parties, some of which are leftist, such as the Tagammu and the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party and others liberal, like the Wafd and the Reform and Development Party.

“If we win there will be deputies from diverse political backgrounds in the new parliament, and this is good for democracy.”

Mostaqbal Watan is also fielding a large number of individual candidates. “We are hoping that a minimum of 80 per cent of our individual candidates win seats so we can form the majority in the new parliament,” said Al-Khouli.

Unlike the Senate elections, when its candidates stood unopposed, the National Unified List faces competition from three coalitions: the Alliance of Independents, the Sons of Egypt and Call of Egypt.

NEA said the candidacy of other coalitions were rejected because they failed to submit all the required papers.

The Alliance of the Independents comprises four political forces: Al-Arabi, Justice and Equality, the Voice of the People, and the Victory parties. Hisham Al-Anani, the leader of the alliance, said the coalition will compete in just one party list district, Cairo, Middle and South Delta (100 seats). “We and the Mostaqbal Watan coalition will be the only forces competing in this district and we hope that competition will be fair,” said Al-Anani.

Al-Anani said its 100 candidates include some public figures, young people and women. The coalition’s candidates include Amr, the son of former Field Marshal Abdel-Hakim Amer; Sabri Serag, deputy chairman of Al-Zamalek Sporting Club; and Nahla Abdel-Aziz, chairwoman of TV Channel Two.

A third coalition, the Sons of Egypt, will compete against the National Unified List in the Eastern Delta (42 seats). The coalition’s Secretary-General Ihab Wahbi said it also wanted to run in North, Middle and South Upper Egypt but its papers were rejected. “We are lodging an appeal with the NEA and we hope to reverse the decision,” said Wahbi.

Application papers submitted by the opposition Conservatives Party were also rejected by the NEA.

Mohamed Wali, leader of the Sons of Egypt coalition, said Mohamed Al-Masry, the October war hero, is standing as a candidate. “Our list includes women, Christians, and young people,” said Wali, who added his coalition supported the policies of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, particularly in the area of fighting terrorism and economic reform, “but also believes that social justice should take a priority in the coming years”.

Call of Egypt will compete in two party list districts: the Western Delta (42 seats) and North, Middle and South Upper Egypt (100 seats). The party competed in the 2015 elections but it failed to win a seat.

Political analyst Gamal Zahran expects that competition for individual seats will dominate campaigning.

“The problem is that the three coalitions which face the Mostaqbal Watan’s National Unified List lack resources and popularity,” said Zahran.

“I hope the NEA will accept the papers of other coalitions following the appeal process. I also hope that media coverage of the election, which will begin on 21 October, will be fair and transparent.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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