Independent candidates steal the show in Alexandria's parliamentary vote

Omar Halawa in Alexandria, Sunday 18 Oct 2015

In the absence of party politics, citizens look for a candidate who will 'act on his promises'

Egyptians women wait to cast their votes outside a polling station during the first round of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, in Alexandria, Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP)

"Vote for either the symbols of the pen, the elephant or the ruler," Sayed Ahmed, an elderly Alexandria-based man, said to his relatives. "There are many candidates in this electoral race and we won’t be able to identify them all so let's vote for who we know," he concluded.

The first stage of Egypt's long-delayed parliamentary elections started on Sunday in 14 provinces including Alexandria. Observers witnessed a low turnout in the coastal city and in the majority of the provinces in the governorate.

Alexandria is known to be the hub of the Salafi movement and a strong base for the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group. In the 2012 parliamentary race the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party came first. However, Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, the eventual winner of the 2012 presidential elections, was outvoted by more than one contender in the coastal governorate during the polls' first stage, with Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi finishing first.  


In the parliamentary elections of today Alexandria is dominated by independent candidates, accompanied by a Nour Party presence. There is no real presence of left-wing or revolutionary figures.

"It's not about politics anymore," Ahmed Fouad, a former member of Alexandria's municipal council, told Ahram Online. "People will vote for who they know personally because all the parties failed to promote themselves to the public," he said.

"In terms of the individual seats system, I see the competition being between independent candidates, in some cases former National Democratic Party (NDP) members, while in terms of the party-based lists system I see For the Love of Egypt and the Nour Party list winning," he Fouad said.

The West Delta constituency for the party-based lists system, which includes three governorates, will elect 15 parliamentarians. They will be divided as follows: Alexandria (7), Beheira (7), and Marsa Matrouh (1).

The most prominent figures in the Nour Party are Nader Bakar, head of the party's media committee, and Ashraf Thabet, secretary of the Islamist-dominated 2012 People's Assembly.

While the For the Love of Egypt list is fielding prominent businessman Mohamed Farag Amer and Ahmed El Seginey, a senior member of the Wafd Party board, and Sahar Talaat Mustafa, sister of business tycoon and former NDP parliamentarian Hisham Talaat.

But what do locals think about their city's electoral landscape this time round?

"The electoral scene is no more interesting or exciting than previously," said Rageb Mohamed, 37, a campaigner for individual candidate Alaa Gad.

"I used to be a campaigner for NDP members in 2000, 2005 and 2010 and I believe that politically it was more organised in terms of why and how you fielded a candidate, even if there were violations or even rigging," he said.

"Our constituency today has 57 individual candidates, and the majority of them are independents who depend on personal and social connections to gain votes, but the problem is that all of them are well known faces and they are our neighbours, relatives or friends.

"This means that no one will gain a majority or even gets the lion's share of the seats as we must choose only three from 57, which means that there will for sure be a run-off round next week so we can have the top six candidates from the first round contesting the three seats," he added.

"Also bear in mind that some candidates who decided to contest the elections this time know very well that they will not win but are campaigning for upcoming municipal elections," Mohamed added.

Sayed Ahmed, the old man who belongs to Mohamed's constituency, has a similar point of view.

"Many of our constituency candidates are NDP members, but from the second or the third tier," Ahmed said. "But honestly speaking, I talked to many of my neighbors and they need a candidate who picks up his phone and can help deliver medical or social services," he said.

"And we voted for the Muslim Brotherhood because they introduced themselves as clerics, but eventually they failed to deliver anything and their era was unstable too. But today if we put politics aside, we need a respectful candidate who will act on his promises, and not from the Nour Party because we are not interested in having Islamists again," he said.


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