Egyptian electoral coalitions falter as candidate registration moves ahead

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 5 Sep 2015

Non-Islamist political parties are struggling to finalise their candidate lists

Egypt's Parliament (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The Higher Election Committee, the body in charge of supervising Egypt's upcoming parliamentary elections, announced on Friday night that the first four days of candidate registration saw 3,777 people putting their names forward, the majority seeking to stand as independent candidates.

According to the committee's spokesman, Omar Marwan, 2,745 names were submitted on Tuesday, the first day of registration, followed by 672 on Wednesday, 303 on Thursday, and 57 on Friday. One hundred and fifty-six of those registering were women.

Of the total, 2,855 seek to contest the portion of seats allocated to independent candidates while 722 aim to stand for the seats allocated to party lists.

"While the 722 were fielded by 51 political parties, none of the existing electoral coalitions have so far submitted their lists of candidates," Marwan said.

Candidate registration will continue until 2pm on 12 September. 

The numbers of candidate registrations dropped sharply on the fourth day of the registration period “because it was Friday and this is a weekly holiday; in addition registration offices work six hours only on Fridays rather than eight hours during the rest of the week," said Marwan.

Political analysts, however, attributed the downward trend in candidate registration to the internal divisions that have hit different non-Islamist political parties.

On Friday, Sameh Seif El-Yazal, coordinator of the Our Beloved Egypt electoral coalition, announced that attempts aimed at unifying his coalition with the Egyptian Front electoral bloc had faltered.

El-Yazal said the political divisions that have plagued the Egyptian Front recently have worked against unifying the two coalitions into a single electoral bloc.

"Because divisions hit the coalition, they were not able to reach agreement on a list of candidates that will join the Our Beloved Egypt list," El-Yazal told Ahram Online on Friday.

The two electoral coalitions are widely believed to be supported by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his government, although El-Yazal, a former intelligence officer and currently chairman of Al-Gomhouria newspaper's Strategic and Political Studies Centre, has repeatedly denied that any state officials have ever requested he form the coalition.

"We formed this coalition to ensure that secular forces have a majority in the coming parliament, and also to guarantee that this coming parliament works in harmony with the president for the interests of Egypt," El-Yazal has said in a press interview.

The Egyptian Front coalition is mainly composed of the National Movement and Egypt My Homeland: two political parties that have their roots with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

The two parties do not support the 2011 revolution against Mubarak and rather believe it was an American conspiracy.

The coalition is led by Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister and a presidential candidate in 2012, who now lives in the United Arab Emirates.

Shafiq said in a public statement on Friday that, "the coordination with Our Beloved Egypt has failed because they wanted to have the upper hand in preparing the lists of candidates."

Shafiq, however, said in a media interview on Saturday that he is still strongly in support of unifying all non-Islamist political parties in one electoral alliance to compete in the elections as one list.

"Political parties submitting different lists of candidates running for party-based seats will not serve and I hope we will be able to mend fences and join forces to be one bloc again," said Shafiq.

Yehia Qadri, deputy chairman of the National Movement Party, resigned in protest at the failure in negotiations with Our Beloved Egypt.

"We submitted our proposed list of candidates to Our Beloved Egypt, but they changed it, giving themselves the right to decide who should be on the unified list," said Qadri.

Political experts agree that the divisions and power struggles that have hit Egypt's secular political forces in recent weeks will serve the Nour Party, the sole Islamist party competing in the coming election.

Wahid Abdel-Meguid, an Ahram political analyst, told Al-Arabiya satellite channel Friday that "Egypt's civilian forces, which came into existence after two revolutions against the former regimes of Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood, are still weak and fragile."

"I do not expect that any of these forces will be able to get more than seven or eight percent of the seats of the coming parliament, while I expect that the Salafist Nour Party, with strong grassroots in different rural governorates in the Nile Delta and upper Egypt, will be able to gain 20 percent of the seats," Abdel-Meguid said.

The last few weeks saw resignations by the heads of several different secular political parties, because of differences over whether to participate in the election.

The first was Hala Shukrallah, the chairwoman of the Dostour Party, who resigned on 19 August. 

The second was Mohamed Abul-Ghar, chairman of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, who resigned on Thursday.

Both parties are liberal, pro-revolution groups that came into being after Mubarak was ousted from office in February 2011.

Yahia Qadri, the deputy chairman of the National Movement Party, also announced on Thursday that he would resign in protest at his party's failure to join an electoral coalition led by Our Beloved Egypt.

Last month also saw the Wafd Party, Egypt's oldest political party and main liberal forum, splitting into two warring factions. A splinter group calling itself Wafd Reformers accused the Wafd Party's chairman, El-Sayed El-Badawi, of corruption and authoritarianism, and asked him to resign.     

The long-awaited elections will be held in two stages; voters in 14 governorates will go to the polls between 17 and 27 October, while the other 14 governorates will vote between 21 November and 2 December.

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