Three secular forces to dominate run-offs in Egypt's second stage of parliamentary polls

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 1 Dec 2015

Observers expect that three secular forces will emerge as the main winners at the end Egypt's parliamentary elections this week

Egyptian parliamentary elections
Egyptian parliamentary elections (Reuters)

Three secular political forces – the Free Egyptians Party, Future of Homeland and the Wafd Party – are expected to win the lion's share of seats in Egypt's new parliament. The three forces, which have so far gained 87 seats in parliament, will have 145 candidates in the run-off round of the second and final stage of the polls, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Sunday, the Higher Election Committee (HEC) announced that 426 independents will be competing for 213 seats in 99 constituencies in the run-off. HEC spokesman Omar Marawan indicated that the run-offs will take place in 13 governorates, with Egyptian expatriate voters to cast their ballots on Monday and Tuesday and domestic voters on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Most experts expect that cold weather and local and international events attracting the attention of voters might contribute to, at best, an average turnout. In the first round, held between 21 and 23 November, the turnout was above average, registering 29.8 percent.

Marawan announced that dozens of appeals contesting the results of the first round in 13 governorates were rejected by administrative courts.

One court, however, cancelled run-off in the Mansoura city constituency, the capital of the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya, and ordered a re-run of the first round ballot. The court said that since one disqualified candidate was allowed to join the first round in Mansoura city, the ballot had to be cancelled.

In Mansoura, around 30 individual candidates were competing to fill three seats.

Marawan also said that Ezzat Badawi, a former MP and an independent candidate in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya, died on Sunday of a sudden heart attack and will be replaced by Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Gelil, the candidate who came closest to Badawi in terms of the number of votes.

In the first round of the second and final stage of the election, as many as 2,893 competed to fill 222 seats reserved for independents, and 195 competed to fill 60 seats reserved for party-based candidates. The electoral coalition entitled For the Love of Egypt won the 60 seats reserved for party lists, and only nine of the 222 seats reserved for independent candidates were won outright.

"In the run-offs, around 200 of the individual candidates are affiliated with political parties, while 226 are running as 100 percent independent," said Marawan.

According to the National Centre for Research and Consultants (NCRC), an independent Cairo-based NGO, three secular forces will be dominant in the run-off round.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, will have the highest number of candidates in the run-offs, with 52 out of 110 making it to the second round. It is followed by the Future of Homeland with 50 out of 89 candidates.

Forty-three candidates out of 135 affiliated with the Wafd Party, Egypt's oldest liberal party, qualified for the run-off round.

Osama Heikal, a former information minister and an official who won with the For the Love of Egypt coalition, told reporters while visiting parliament on Monday that "the coalition, including the three secular forces, will also coordinate with independents to form the biggest civilian bloc in the coming parliament."

According to Heikal, "it is not a shame for civilian forces to seek majority in parliament… This is the rule in democratic countries, where majority blocs and parties in parliament are a necessity."

Heikal also said that "allegations that the intended civilian bloc will be a replica of [former president Hosni] Mubarak's NDP (National Democratic Party) or the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) are unfounded and baseless."

Heikal argued that "Mubarak's NDP and the Brotherhood's FJP have been wiped off the political map of Egypt and will never be replicated," said Heikal.

Preliminary figures show that an estimated 100 Mubarak-era figures were able to qualify for the run-offs, whereas around 30 Mubarak-era figures won seats in the first stage of the polls and could merge with secular forces to support Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in the coming parliament.

Poor performance by leftists, Islamists

In contrast to the above secular forces, religious and leftist factions showed poor performance.

The ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist force contesting in the polls, was 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 El-Sheikh.

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

Only two leftists made it to the run-offs; 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.

Six other leftists won in the first stage; three affiliated with the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, two Nasserists, and one with the Social Popular Current – an offshoot of Tagammu.

NCRC noted that 19 out of a total 168 female candidates qualified for the run-off round, and that a record 61 women have so far gained seats in parliament, with 33 in the first stage and 28 in the first round of the second stage.

Judicial defiance in face of terror threat

The run-off poll will be held amid tight security.

The second stage saw on 23 November a terrorist attack that led to the killing of two judges and five security personnel in El-Arish city, the capital of North Sinai. Interior minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar said that as many as 150,000 central security troops, plus 160,000 army men, will be deployed to safeguard the polling stations.

Justice minister Ahmed El-Zind insisted that judges will never be intimidated by terrorist acts and that they are ready to monitor the poll anywhere in Egypt, especially in the terror-stricken North Sinai.

Foreign NGOs participating in the supervision of the polls remarked that they were held in a fair and transparent climate, although they did, however, note that "vote buying and political money operations were rampant in the second stage."

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