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Initiatives to form electoral coalitions, parties say talks are ongoing

Egypt's electoral law may weaken prospects for broad coalitions in the upcoming legislative elections and beyond

Salma Shukrallah , Saturday 19 Jul 2014
parliamentary elections
Woman votes in the last day of parliamentary elections in Egypt (Photo: Reuters)
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Views: 2227

A document drafted by political analyst and former MP Amr Elchoubaky has been put forward and discussed by several Egyptian political parties as a start for a possible political coalition.

The initiative is not the first of its kind. Prominent politician Amr Moussa recently declared he was in talks with political parties in an attempt to form a new political alliance for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Member of the liberal Wafd Party Hossam El-Khouly told Ahram Online that a coalition has already been formed between his party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) in addition to several others, including the Construction and Development Party, the Consciousness Party and the Conservative Party.

“The Egyptian Wafd coalition has already been declared ... this coalition is currently coordinating with Amr Moussa,” El-Khouly said, adding that the coalition includes Elchoubaky.

According to El-Khouly, the already formed coalition will be competing over individual candidacy seats jointly and is currently in talks with Amr Moussa to coordinate for party list seats.   

Egypt’s new electoral law allows no more than 20 percent of parliamentary seats to be filled through party lists and the rest to be through individual candidacy seats. The party lists will be absolute, meaning that the list that gets more than 50 percent of votes will take all the seats of the district.

Accordingly, Ahmed Fawzy of the ESDP told Ahram Online that the coordination ongoing with the Wafd Party cannot be termed a coalition, since a coalition can only be formed in presence of a party list system, which is currently absent under the new electoral law.

“With such a low number of seats allocated for party lists, there can be no party coalitions ... we always said there can be no role for political parties under the individual candidacy system.”

Fawzy went on to explain that in a parliament that is chosen predominantly by the individual candidacy system, candidates do not need to stick to political party coalitions or decisions, and can just run independently. This, he opines, makes for very weak coalitions.  

“We will, however, coordinate with any willing party regarding the individual candidacy seats,” he said, explaining that such coordination is mainly limited to one party retreating for the other from certain electoral districts.

For his part, Shehab Abdel-Meguid of the Free Egyptians Party told Ahram Online that his party so far will be filing candidates independently from any coalition.

“There are ongoing talks with all political parties but we are yet to see a real coalition forming ... there is no common legislative platform,” said Abdel-Meguid arguing that the party would rather offer a clear alternative to voters.

The Constitution Party and Hamdeen Sabahi’s Egyptian Popular Current are still to declare a position, but have announced that talks to coordinate are also ongoing.

Political parties have unanimously been calling for amending the new electoral law to allow a majority of seats to be chosen through a party list system, in order to enhance the role of parties.

Supporters of parties have frequently argued that party list voting ensures that votes are accrued on the basis of a political platform rather than on individuals themselves, reducing the influence of tribal and family links — or a candidate’s ability to persuade voters via favours — on electoral outcomes.

Last week, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a presidential decree (No 231/2014) asking the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) to meet to commence the necessary procedures for holding parliamentary elections.

Egypt's new parliament — to be named the House of Representatives — will be composed of 567 deputies. Some 75 percent of seats (420) will be elected via the individual candidacy system, with a mere 20 percent (120 seats) reserved for party-based candidates. The remaining five percent (27 seats) will be appointed by the president.

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