Sisi's call for a 'joint electoral list' receives chilly response

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 1 Jun 2015

Egypt's political parties not convinced by President El-Sisi's recommendation that they run as a single electoral coalition in any upcoming parliamentary polls

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Reuters)

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's suggestion one week ago that Egypt's mainstream political parties join the country's coming parliamentary elections as a single electoral bloc isn't expected to see much success, these parties have said.

According to Gaber Al-Shehabi, chairman of the Geel Party, President El-Sisi suggested the idea during a meeting with representatives from more than 30 political parties at a meeting on 27 May.

"The president said this initiative is important because it will help most political parties get seats in the coming parliament and also ensure that remnants of the two former regimes of Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood do not join parliament again," Al-Shehabi told Ahram Online.

Al-Shehabi also indicated that, once confronted with the question that this initiative violates the principle of political competitiveness and strips parliament of any diversity of opinions, El-Sisi had said "all should put national interests above political competitiveness in the current situation."

Al-Shehabi said that, although he agrees with El-Sisi, "the problem is that most of the political parties in Egypt now are either weak, fragmented or disrupted by internal divisions."

"Look at the Wafd Party, which is currently suffering from an internal division into two warring camps," said Al-Shehabi. "The ideological differences between political parties are very sharp, and cannot allow for the creation of a national joint electoral party list."

Ahmed Fawzi, spokesman of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said in a public statement this week, "The number of seats allocated to party lists account for just 17 percent [120 seats] of the total in the coming parliament."

"As a result, we do not think that a joint party list, as recommended by president El-Sisi, will lead to any positive impact on parliament," Fawzi said. "I think that there should rather be coordination between parties in the area of competition for independent seats, as the law allocates 448 [78 percent] for independents."

"The formation of unified party lists goes against democracy as citizens should differentiate among various party lists with various political and economic platforms," Fawzi said. "The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, for example, cannot run on a joint party list with candidates from a party with a Salafist Islamist agenda like the Nour Party, or with connections with Hosni Mubarak's former regime like the National Front Party."

"President El-Sisi's call for prioritising national interests suits other areas such as fighting terrorism, but not parliamentary elections," he said.

Like Fawzi's party, most Egyptian revolutionary forces reject electoral coordination with the two previous regimes of Hosni Mubarak and Muslim Brotherhood.

"Revolutionary forces stipulate that the current election laws be changed to scrap the absolute party list system, which stipulates that the party winning more than 50 percent of seats per district wins all seats," he said.

Younis Makhyoun, chairman of the Islamist Nour Party, agreed with Fawzi.

"It would be quite difficult for the party to become part of a joint electoral list with civilian or secular parties," he said.

A number of political parties together recently drafted suggested amendments to the election laws, asking President El-Sisi and the government to adopt the proportional list system, which allows each party list to win seats in proportion to the votes it obtains per district.

Salah Fawzi, a member of a government committee in charge of amending the election laws, told reporters on Monday that "the parties' unified amendments ask that constituencies reserved for competition between party lists increase from four to eight, and that the absolute list system be revoked."

"We welcome these proposals and we will see if any of them might be adopted to encourage all political parties to join the parliamentary race," said Fawzi.

Egypt's parliamentary elections were scheduled to be held last March, but were postponed after two election laws were ruled unconstitutional.  

For its side, the liberal Free Egyptians party, founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, stressed that it would run the elections alone.

"Political parties misunderstood President El-Sisi's call for unity during the elections," the party's spokesman Wagih Shehab said at a press conference on Monday.

"The president simply wanted political parties to coordinate during the elections, not to join unified electoral lists," said Shehab. "President El-Sisi intervened two weeks ago to help two different camps of the Wafd Party mend fences, to keep the party intact, and to compete well in the elections"

On Sunday, up to 32 political parties agreed to form a joint electoral list in what they considered a positive response to President El-Sisi's call.

Ahmed Al-Fadali, chairman of the so-called Independence Current, said the 32 political parties would begin coordination to form a joint list.

"In his meeting with political parties, El-Sisi was quite clear that he wants parliamentary elections held as soon as possible, and also wants political parties to join forces instead of running on separate lists," Al-Fadali said at a press conference on Sunday.

The so-called Egyptian Front party, led by former president Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, said it would hold a meeting on 10 June to officially invite political parties to join El-Sisi's proposed joint electoral list.

"The creation of a joint national electoral list is possible, if political parties decide to put their ideological differences aside," said deputy chairman Yehia Qadri.

"They will join this national list only for electoral interests, and without any violation of their ideologies and platforms. The spirit of El-Sisi's call was that all should forget ideologies at the moment in favour of national interests."

"The party will not be part of any national joint electoral list," meanwhile said Wafd Party Al-Sayed chairman Al-Badawi.

The Wafd Party has chosen to join the so-called "For the Love of Egypt" electoral list, which is loyal to President El-Sisi, El-Badawi said.

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