Diehard Mubarak-era figures gain ground in 2nd stage of Egypt's parliamentary polls

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 28 Nov 2015

Figures from the former Mubarak regime made the strongest showing in the second round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, set for a run-off vote this week

Men ride motorcycles past election banners in front of Al Sultan Hassan (L) and Al-Refaie (R) mosques in the old Islamic area of Cairo, Egypt, November 22, 2015. (Reuters)

When the Higher Elections Committee (HEC) in charge of supervising Egypt's elections announced the results of the second stage of the polls on 25 November, it was a surprise for many that dozens of figures prominent under former autocratic president Hosni Mubarak were able to qualify for the run-off round, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Figures prepared by Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) show that an estimated number of 100 Mubarak-era figures were able to beat their rivals by wide margins and qualify for the run-offs.

Yussri Al-Azabawy, chairman of ACPSS's Parliamentary Forum Unit, said in a television interview that ACPSS's study of the results of the first round of the second stage of the polls, held between 21 and 23 November, show that many high-profile figures who were affiliated with Mubarak's now defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) showed a strong performance.

"The majority are either businessmen, former politicians, or former long-time NDP MPs," said Al-Azabawy.

Al-Azabawy also noted that diehard Mubarak-era figures ran either as independents or as affiliated with political parties.

"Many political parties lacking popular and experienced candidates seeked candidates possessing large sums of cash, thus they resorted to fielding old NDP officials with deep-rooted family and tribal ties in different constituencies to swell their ranks in parliament."

A case in point, saaid Al-Azabawy, is that businessman Talaat Al-Sewedy, a former NDP official who won in Shariqiya governorate, ran as an independent affiliated with Al-Wafd Party.

By contrast, said Al-Azabawy, some of Mubarak's fiercest critics were among the losers in the second stage of the polls.

"Foremost among these are Mohamed Abdel-Alim, a long-time Wafdist MP and a fierce critic of Mubarak and his son Gamal, and Hafez Abu Saeda, chairman of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR)," said Al-Azabawy.

HEC's figures show that out of nine who were able to win seats in the first round of the second stage of the polls last week, four were high-profile Mubarak era figures. These are: Ali Al-Moselhi, a former minister of social solidarity and a former leading official of Mubarak's NDP; Talaat Al-Sewedy, a former NDP official and an electricity cables business tycoon; and Mahmoud Khamis, a former NDP MP and a major textile industrialist.

Khamis is the younger brother of Mohamed Farid Khamis, a former leading NDP official and owner of the Oriental Weavers Company.

The list of NDP winners also includes Mahmoud Othman, a former NDP official and a construction magnate who is the son of late housing minister Othman Ahmed Othman, the founder of the giant Arab Contractors Company. Mahmoud Othman is also married to the daughter of late President Anwar Al-Sadat.

In the run-off round next Tuesday and Wednesday, many senior NDP officials will run in Cairo and other different governorates. On top of these are Hussein Megawer, the former chairman of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (GEFTU) in Cairo's Maadi district, and Talaat Al-Qawwas, a long-time NDP MP and owner of a chain of readymade garment shops, in Cairo's Abdeen constituency. While Megawer runs as an independent, Al-Qawwas stands as independent affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris.

The list also includes: Ihab Al-Omda in north Cairo's district of Shorabiya, Mohamed Hammouda, a lawyer who represents former NDP millionaire Ahmed Ezz; Mohamed Massoud; a former NDP official running as an independent with the Free Egyptians Party in Cairo's Boulaq; Sherine Ahmed Fouad Abdel-Aziz, a former NDP MP, in Cairo's Al-Wayli district; Ahmed Shiha, a former NDP and businessman, in Al-Khalifa district; Qarim Nabil, a former NDP official and manager of the campaign of the 2012 presidential campaign of Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, in Cairo's Heliopolis;

The list in the Nile Delta governorates includes: Mostafa El-Said, a former Mubarak-era economy minister and a former leading NDP economist, in Sharqia governorate's district of Diarb Negm; Ahmed Fouad Abaza, a former NDP MP who belongs to the old business family Abaza in Sharqia governorate's district of Abu Hammad; Moataz Al-Shazli, the son of NDP's late parliamentary affairs minister and secretary for organisational affairs Kamal Al-Shazli in Menoufiya governorate's district of Al-Bagour; and Tawfiq Okasha, owner of the private TV channel Al-Faraeen (Pharaohs), in Daqahliyya governorate's district of Talkha.

Okasha will be competing against Fouad Badrawi, a long-time MP and the grandson of Al-Wafd Party's late leader Fouad Seraggeddin.

Saeed Sadek, a political science professor with the American University in Cairo (AUC), told Ahram Online that he believes that "political money" was highly influential in the second stage.

"As a large number of businessmen and merchants competed in this stage, and as election laws do not impose any penalties on vote-buying, it was natural for political money to proliferate," said Sadek, adding that "there were exceptions to this rule." "In East Cairo's commercial community of Nasr City, political analyst Samir Ghattas was able to win firsthand and without a run-off, beating all his business rivals who spent millions to get a seat in parliament," said Sadek.

Sadek also believes that the performance of the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party and leftist political parties was poor.

"Political Islam and leftist ideologies have no longer become in vogue in Egypt and people prefer moderate forces now," said Sadek.

The Nour Party is left with only four candidates who were able to make it to the run-off round this week, all competing in the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr Al-Sheikh.

Al-Nour, which came in second in the 2011 parliamentary elections, won only independent eight seats out of 222 in the first stage.

Two leftists only will compete in the run-offs. The first is Abdel-Hamid Kamal, a former MP and the candidate of the leftist Tagammu Party in Suez governorate, and Khaled Abdel-Aziz Shaaban, the candidate of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the son of a former leftist MP.

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