Leading officials of Egypt's political parties have said they are doing their best to finalise the registration papers of their candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. On Sunday, the Higher Elections Committee (HEC) extended the window for parliamentary candidate registration by two days — from 2pm Tuesday, 17 February, to 7pm Thursday, 19 February.
Some had high hopes that the registration window would remain open beyond Thursday so that party-based candidates could have more time to submit their registration papers.
But in a statement to reporters on Wednesday, HEC spokesperson Omar Marawan said "The registration deadline will not be extended beyond Thursday."
Marawan indicated that "The registration committees will remain working Friday to revise the papers and give a final tally for independent and party-based candidates."
Marawan attributed the two-day extension, from 17 to 19 February, to bad weather "and the necessity of allowing political parties greater time to complete their lists of candidates and successfully submit the required registration papers."
A lot of candidates have complained of rigorous and expensive medical check-ups. The Ministry of Health and HEC said the medical tests are a necessity to ensure that Egypt's new parliamentary deputies are free from physical, mental and psychological ailments. "Presidential candidates underwent these tests last May, and the same should apply to parliamentary nominees this month," said Marawan.
Health ministry statistics show that more than 200 prospective candidates tested positive to drug intake and as a result the HEC rejected their registration papers.
Marawan said the two-day extension of the registration deadline forced the HEC to slightly change the election timetable. "The HEC now expects a complete list of candidates to be available by 22 February, instead of 20 February," said Marawan, indicating that "The full names of candidates will be published by two national newspapers next week."
Marawan also indicated that campaigning in the first round of the polls, due to begin on 21-22 March, will run between 28 February and 20 March, instead of 26 February and 20 March.
Marawan said the second round of the poll will be held on 26-27 April. "In case of a run-off, it will be held on 6-7 May," said Marawan, adding that "The final results of the two-round polls will be announced on 11-12 May." "The successful candidates will be able to gain complete parliamentary membership between 13 May and 11 June," said Marawan.
The above dates mean that Egypt's new parliament — or House of Representatives — will be able to convene its first session only in the second half of June, or just few days before the holy fasting month of Ramadan begins on 18 June.
In general, a cloud of uncertainty still looms over Egypt's upcoming parliamentary elections. Political experts cite legal and security concerns.
Gamal Zahran, a political science professor, told Ahram Online that a number of lawsuits have been filed with the administrative courts in recent weeks, all contesting the constitutionality of laws regulating the exercise of political rights, the House of Representatives and the asignation of electoral districts. "Some of these lawsuits were referred to the High Constitutional Court (HCC) for a final judgment," said Zahran.
Marawan told reporters that the abovementioned laws were thoroughly revised by the State Council's Department of Fatwas and Legislation. "The department concluded last December that these three laws do not contravene the constitution," said Marawan.
For his part, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab told reporters Monday — hours after Egypt mounted airstrikes against the Islamic State in Libya in retaliation for the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians — that the polls would not be postponed and would be held in a climate of integrity. "Although these terrorist attacks aim to delay the election process, it will go forward anyway," Mahlab said.
Marawan argued Tuesday that although the door of registration opened 11 days ago, most party-based candidates have not been able to register.
According to Marawan, HEC statistics show that "of the 5,053 who had successfully registered by 17 February, 3,514 were hoping to stand as independents and only 1,539 on party lists." "Most of those who have registered range between 41 and 50 years, while the number of female candidates has so far reached 212," said Marawan.
Marawan said he expects the total number of candidates to dramatically rise in the final two days of registration — on Wednesday and Thursday. "This is based on the fact that more than 8,000 had already applied to undergo the required medical tests, and with the two-day extension we expect the number will greatly increase," said Marwan.
The low number of party-based candidates was largely due to the fact that most secular parties are still debating the possibility of compiling a unified list.
The two major electoral coalitions of "The Egyptian Wafd" and "For Love of Egypt" said their candidates will submit papers on Wednesday and Thursday. Sameh Seif Al-Yazal, a former intelligence officer and chairman of Al-Gomhouria Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (GCPSS), said "The submission of papers comes late because consultations between 'For Love of Egypt' and Al-Wafd took a long time."
According to Al-Yazal, "The 'For Love of Egypt' lists will include 13 Wafdists." "On top of these are two former Wafdist MPs: Mohamed Abdel-Alim in the Nile delta governorate of Kafr Al-Sheikh, and Tarek Sabaq in Cairo," said Al-Yazal, adding that "Other Wafdists include Osama Heikal, a former information minister and currently chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City; Taher Abu Zeid, a former minister of sports; Akmal Qortam, oil business tycoon and chairman of the Conservative Party; and Fadia Salem, a female member in the liberal Reform and Development Party and a former Shura Council MP.
Al-Yazal indicated that "The 'For Love of Egypt' list also includes Mohamed Al-Orabi, a former foreign affairs minister; Ahmed Said, the former chairman of the Free Egyptians Party; Lamis Gaber, a political writer and wife of famous movie actor Yehia Al-Fakharani; Mahmoud Badr, coordinator of the Tamarod Mmovement; and Tarek Al-Khouli, a former spokesperson for the revolutionary April 6 Movement.
Al-Yazal said the list also includes a number of prominent businessmen, such as automobile magnate Wagih Abaza, electric cables tycoon Mohamed Al-Sewedy, and Alexandria's high-profile industrialist and chairman of Semouha Sporting Club Mohamed Farag Amer.
The "For Love of Egypt" list also comprises a large number of Coptic candidates, foremost among them Emad Gad, an Al-Ahram political analyst and an official with the Free Egyptians Party.
Several political analysts believe that the "For Love of Egypt" list enjoys the backing of the government and President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, though both have repeatedly stressed that they stand neutral.
Most of the names on the "For Love of Egypt" list were originally put on a list that was prepared by former Mubarak-era Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri. "But as El-Ganzouri's list faced attacks from most political parties, not to mention that it included a lot of former Hosni Mubarak regime symbols, President El-Sisi intervened to take it into a different direction," said Zahran, adding that "Its name changed from the National List to the 'For Love of Egypt' list, while most of the names that belonged in one way or another to the Mubarak regime were dismissed in favour of popular candidates from Al-Wafd Party and other forces."
A lot of Mubarak regime remnants are allied with the so-called "Egyptian Front" coalition. Spokesperson Qadri Abu Hussein told Ahram Online that 90 per cent of the front's allied independent candidates have already registered. "As for the lists of our party-based candidates, these will be submitted on Wednesday or Thursday," said Hussein.
Hussein indicated that topping the list of the front's candidates are Ahmed Zaki Badr, a former education minister; Amr Ezzat Salama, a former higher education minister; and Yehia Qadri, chairman of the Egyptian National Movement, a political party that was founded by former Mubarak-era prime minister and 2012 presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq.
A review of the list shows that it also includes a large number of Mubarak's former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) MPs in the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt governorates.
In Islamist terms, the ultraconservative Salafist Al-Nour Party said its party-based candidates aiming to run in the East Delta district successfully registered Monday. "This district includes 15 seats in three governorates (Al-Beheira, Alexandria and Matrouh) and competition there is reserved to party-based candidates," said Talaat Marouk, a leading Nour official.
Competition for party-based seats will be confined to four districts with 120 seats: two with 45 seats each and two with 15 seats each. The two districts with 45 seats each include Cairo, and East and South Delta (six governorates); and North, Middle and South Upper Egypt (11 governorates). The other two districts with 15 seats each include East Delta (seven governorates), and West Delta (three governorates).
Egypt's new parliament will comprise 567 MPs, with 420 independents and 120 party-based deputies. As many as 27 MPs will be appointed by the president.
Although the liberal Wafd Party decided in a meeting Saturday that it would not boycott the polls, its candidates have so far not been able to register. Bahaa Abu-Shoqa, Al-Wafd's secretary-general, said "The complete lists of the party's candidates, being revised by a legal committee, will be submitted on Thursday."
Officials of another electoral list, under the banner of "The Reawakening of Egypt," also said they will register Thursday. The list, being prepared by opposition political activist Abdel-Gelil Mostafa, includes candidates affiliated with liberal and leftist revolutionary forces.