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Independents brace for tough electoral competition in Cairo, Nile Delta

The second stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections is expected to be fierce among independent candidates

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 22 Nov 2015
Electoral banners are seen in Abbasya
Electoral banners are seen in Abbasya area ahead of the second round of parliamentary election, in Cairo, Egypt, November 15, 2015 (Reuters)

The second stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections is expected to be fierce among independent candidates, especially in Cairo and six densely populated Nile Delta governorates, although the turnout is not expected to be high. 

This stage of the elections started for overseas voters on Saturday, and will take place for constituents based in Egypt on Sunday and Monday. The election runoffs will take place on 1 and 2 December.

The Higher Election Committee (HEC) in charge of supervising the polls says that some 28.2 million voters – almost one million more than in the first stage, which encompassed 27.4 million voters – are eligible to cast their ballots.

‘Election fatigue’

Many analysts, however, do not expect a remarkably high turnout. While 27 percent of registered voters went to the polls in the first stage, this time around the figure could stay the same or increase to 30 percent at best.

Wahid Abdel-Meguid, an Ahram political analyst, says he does not expect the voter turnout to be significantly high. "Bad weather conditions and election fatigue, which led many voters in the first stage not to cast their ballots, are still a factor," said Abdel-Meguid.

HEC's spokesperson Omar Marawan told reporters last week that "although most of the governorates in the second stage are densely populated, do not expect long queues in front of the polling stations."

"The reason is that the number of auxiliary polling stations in these governorates has increased by 3,000 in three years, or from 9,834 in 2012's elections to 12,946 in 2015," said Marawan.

A total of 282 seats will be up for competition in the second stage, with 60 seats for party-based lists and 222 seats for independents.

Marawan explained that as many as 60 seats will be up for grabs among 180 party-based candidates in two constituencies: the 45-seat Cairo, South, Middle and North Delta constituency, and the 15-seat East Delta constituency.

The 222 independent seats, Marawan indicated, will be up for competition among 2,847 candidates in 102 constituencies, with their breakdown in 13 governorates going as follows: Cairo (49), Qalioubiya (25), Daqahliya (29), Menoufiya (20), Gharbiya  (24), Kafr Al-Sheikh (16), Sharqiya (30), Damietta (7), Port Said (4), Ismailiya (6), Suez (4), North Sinai (5), and  South Sinai (3).

Cairo to see highest activity

As Cairo is allocated the largest number of independent seats and has the most active political forces, all agree that it will be the most competitive governorate. As many as 819 independent candidates hailing from different political camps will be competing to fill 49 individual seats in Egypt's capital and largest city, which has 6.5 million registered voters, or 11.2 percent of the total.

Cairo has seven constituencies that will produce one MP each; 10 constituencies that will provide two each with a total of 20 MPs; six constituencies which will return three MPs each or a total 18 MPs; and one constituency which will return four MPs.

Three secular political parties which got the largest number of seats in the first stage – the Free Egyptians Party, the Future of Homeland and the Wafd Party– were keen to field a large number of candidates in Cairo in the second stage.

Out of a total of 115 candidates, as many as 12 affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party will run in Cairo.

The Future of Homeland Party will have 15 candidates in Cairo out of a total 86, and the Wafd Party will have 17 out of a total 130 individual candidates in the second stage.

The ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party will have 10 candidates in Cairo out of a total of 73.

Several former leading officials from ex-president Hosni Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) have also joined the race in Cairo and other governorates. 

Topping the list of diehard NDP candidates are businessman Talaat El-Qawwas in the downtown district of Abdeen, business tycoon Hani Sorour in the downtown district of Bab El-Sharia, former chairman of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions Hussein Megawer in south Cairo's district of Maadi, former leading official Ihab El-Omda in north Cairo's district of El-Sharabiya, businesswoman Shahinaz El-Naggar in west Cairo's district of Al-Manial, former NDP MP Haidar El-Boghdadi in downtown Cairo's district of Gamalia, and TV anchor and owner of Al-Faraeen channel Tawfiq Okasha in Daqahliyya governorate.

In southern Cairo's affluent constituency of Maadi and Tora, as many as 23 candidates are competing for one seat.

Topping the list is Hafez Abu Siida, chairman of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EHOR), who is running as an independent affiliated with the Conservatives Party. Abu Siida will be facing a hard battle against Zakaria Nassef, a former high-profile football player with El-Ahly Sporting Club who is running under the umbrella of the Free Egyptians Party, and Hussein Megawer, an ex-NDP leading official and a former chairman of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (GEFTU).

In the Cairo constituency of Nasr City, as many as 51 candidates are competing to fill three individual seats. The Nasr City constituency has seen the largest amount of political campaign donations in these parliamentary elections.

Business tycoons Mohamed El-Sallab and Suzanne Fawzi El-Sayed are facing Samir Ghattas, chairman of the Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies, and Ihab El-Kharrat, the son of high-profile novelist Edward El-Kharrat and a former Shura Council member who is the candidate for the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

Bassel Adel, a former MP, and Sahar Othman, the candidate of the Wafd Party and deputy chairwoman of GEFTU, are also battling it out in Nasr City.

In southern Cairo's densely populated district of Helwan, as many 57 candidates are competing to fill four seats. As Helwan is primarily a working class community with 650,000 registered voters, most of the candidates hail from GEFTU. Magdi El-Badawi, GEFTU's deputy chairman, is facing competition from two former Mubarak-era MPs: Khalifa Hassanein and Ismail Nasreddin.

Other governorates

In the Nile North Delta governorate of Qalioubiya with 2.6 million registered voters, as many as 281 candidates are competing to fill 25 seats in 10 constituencies. In Benha, the capital of Qalioubiya, 22 candidates joined the race to fill two seats. Topping the list are Gamal El-Arabi, a former minister of education, and Mostafa Kamal El-Din Hussein, the son of a former vice president under the Nasser regime.

In Qalioubiya's constituency of Kafr Shukr, Khaled Youssef, a prominent film director and supporter of the 25 January and 30 June revolutions, is facing 11 rivals with various political backgrounds.

In the Nile Middle Delta governorate of Menoufiya with 2.2 million voters, the constituency of El-Bagour is expected to be the busiest. El-Menoufiya, the birthplace of former presidents Anwar El-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, will see Moataz El-Shazli, the son of Kamal El-Shazli, a leading NDP official who served under the Sadat and Mubarak regimes, running as an independent against 11 candidates, the most prominent of whom is Nour Party candidate Hani Mohamed Farag.

In the densely populated Daqahliya governorate with 3.6 million registered voters, as many as 333 candidates are competing to fill 29 seats in 11 constituencies. The hottest Daqahliya battle will be in the Meit Ghamr constituency where 44 candidates are competing to fill four seats.

Topping the list are Mortada Mansour, a flamboyant lawyer who heads the Zamalek Sporting Club, and Osama El-Sheikh, the former chairman of Egypt's Radio and Television Union and the current head of the Al-Nahar TV channel. Others such as business tycoon Mohamed El-Morshdi and former police officers Hamdi El-Badawi and Usama Radi have also joined the fray.

In Gharbiya governorate, the capital of the Nile Middle Delta with 1.6 million registered voters, a tough battle will take place in Tanta with as many as 39 candidates competing for three seats. The candidates are a mix of businessmen including Yasser El-Guindi, Mohamed Orabi and Kamal Abu Ouf; and media personalities including Galal Awara, a host with the state-run Nile News TV; Saeed Taima, a former police officer; and former MPs such as Amal Abul-Yazid and Abdel-Moneim Al-Ouleimi.

In the Nile North Delta governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh, with 1.8 million registered voters, as many as 193 candidates are struggling to fill 16 seats in eight constituencies. The fierce battle will be in the Siwa constituency, where 21 candidates are competing to fill two seats, with the most prominent being Mohamed Abdel-Alim, Egypt's former parliamentary speaker in 2012 and a leading Wafd official, and Youssef El-Badri, a leading Nour Party official.

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