Initial results of Egypt's run-off vote show parties gain firm footing

Ayat Al Tawy , Thursday 29 Oct 2015

Preliminary results show that parties have gained over half of the 226 seats contested by individual candidates in the vote

Ballots are seen inside a ballot box at a polling station of the runoff to the first round of the parliamentary elections in Giza, just outside of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 (AP)

Egyptian political parties appear to have secured a big slice of individual seats contested in the country's parliamentary election runoff, according to preliminary results, defying expectations amid claims of having little influence and a lack of popular support.

Preliminary results of the polling have showed that parties have gained over half of the 226 seats contested by individual candidates in the vote.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris following the popular 2011 revolt, has clinched the biggest quota, announcing it has won 36 seats.

The Future of a Homeland (Mostakbal Watan), a newly founded pro-regime party, came second with 30 seats. The almost 100-year-old liberal Wafd Party won 17 seats, according to its media advisor Yasser Hassan.

"It is a very healthy phenomenon to have a big number of parties winning in the face of independents," assistant secretary-general of the Free Egyptians Party Ayman Abu Al-Ella told Ahram Online.

"It mirrors a political maturity among the people and underlines some parties' ability to strengthen their footing in the political spectrum," said Abu Al-Ella, who appears to have won a seat in Cairo's western suburb of 6th of October City.

But with most of the contesting party members said to be businessmen, some fear a comeback of the kind of patronage politics and cronyism that prevailed under former autocrat Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule before he was overthrown in 2011.

The first round of the much-postponed elections took place last week in 14 of Egypt's 27 governorates and was marred by a low turnout of 26.6 percent of eligible voters.

Only the individual seats were contested in the run-offs, as party list seats in the first round were swept up by For the Love of Egypt, a coalition loyal to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

The Nour Party, the only Islamist party standing in the vote, won 10 seats, mainly in the governorates of Beheira and Alexandria where they court massive popularity.

Nour, which supported the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, lost all party-based seats in the first round to the pro-El-Sisi alliance, despite coming second, due to the highly-criticised winner-takes-all list system.

The liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, which won 23 of the 2011 parliament's 508 seats, only secured 3 places in the poll.

Ahmed Mortada Mansour, son of boisterous lawyer and chairman of Zamalek Sporting Club Mortada Mansour and a candidate of the Free Egyptians, narrowly beat columnist and political analyst Amr El-Shobaki in a constituency in Giza governorate by some 700 votes. 

Also in Giza, three female candidates won seats, two of which in the working-class district of Imbaba.

An electoral list of opposition liberal and socialist groups withdrew from the elections earlier this week, leaving the field for Mubarak-era figures and supporters of President El-Sisi.

The once-ruling Muslim Brotherhood, which gained the lion's share in the 2011-12 elections, has been banned and declared a terrorist organisation, with thousands of its members thrown behind bars following the ouster of Mubarak's successor, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, after massive protests against his one-year stretch in office.

Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the body. President El-Sisi has held legislative power since taking office.

The last parliamentary elections held in Egypt came months after the toppling of Mubarak and witnessed a turnout of 62 percent in the first round.

The second and final stage of the elections in the remaining governorates will take place on 21 and 22 November, with run-offs, if necessary, due on 1-2 December. 

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