High-profile figures line up to register for Egypt's parliamentary polls

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 8 Sep 2015

A record number of high-profile figures have lined up to register for Egypt's coming parliamentary elections

Hafez Abu Seada, Taher Abu Zaid, Mohamed El-Aurabi and Osama Heikal
From left to right: Hafez Abu Seada, Taher Abu Zaid, Mohamed El-Aurabi and Osama Heikal (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The first six days of registration for Egypt's upcoming parliamentary elections brought a number of surprises.

A whopping 4,136 parliamentary hopefuls submitted their papers to register as candidates within one week after the nomination period began Tuesday, a number much larger than that of applications filed in the first six days of registration prior to the 2011 - 2012 elections.

Omar Marawan, the spokesperson for the Higher Election Committee (HEC), which is in charge of supervising the polls, said the number of hopefuls is still small because most of the electoral coalitions, that have been formed in recent months to contest the polls as one-party lists, have still not submitted their papers.

"All the electoral coalitions usually submit their papers in the final days of registration and as a result I expect the number of hopefuls to increase over the remaining five days," said Marawan, revealing that "the list entitled ‘The Call of Egypt’ – a political bloc including a number of independent revolutionary figures – was the only coalition to submit its papers.

The biggest surprise, however, was that many of Egypt’s high-profile figures have submitted their papers, while many others prepare to register in the next few days as candidates affiliated with a number of electoral coalitions, especially with the coalition called "For the Love of Egypt."

The lists of high-profile candidates show that they come from a mix of different activities. They are human rights activists, former cabinet ministers, business tycoons, film directors, football players, former military officials, former security chefs, and even former leading members of toppled leader Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP).

The first day of registration, or last Tuesday, film director Khaled Youssef submitted his registration. A leftist leaning political activist, Youssef hopes to stand as independent in Kafr Shukr, a district affiliated with the Nile delta governorate of Qalioubiya. Hamdi El-Wazir, a movie actor, also submitted his registration in Cairo's district of El-Wayli.

Hussein Megawer, the former head of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (GEFTU) and a former NDP leading official, also registered to run in south Cairo's district of Maadi.

Ragab Hilal Hemeida, a religious cleric and former independent MP who had been representing downtown Cairo's influential district of Abdeen for 15 years, also registered.

Mohamed El-Gindi, a lawyer for Mubarak's most feared former interior minister Habib El-Adli, submitted his papers to run in North Cairo's district of Shurabiya.

Ali El-Demerdash, Cairo's former security chef, has also registered.

Also on Tuesday, Fathi Sorour, Egypt's longest-serving parliamentary speaker (1990-2010) under the former regime of Hosni Mubarak, said he rejected a request from former NDP officials and residents of El-Sayeda Zeinab district which he had represented in parliament to run in the coming polls.

On Sunday, Hafez Abu Seada, chairman of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), submitted his papers to run in El-Maadi. Esmat El-Merghani, a female political activist who is head of the Free Social Party, also decided to run.

Hamdi Bekhit, a renowned political and military expert, also submitted his papers. The so-called "For the Love of Egypt" electoral coalition said it will submit its lists of candidates on Monday or Tuesday.

It is widely believed that this coalition is supported by President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi and his government. Sameh Seif El-Yazal, the coalition's coordinator, denied that he has received instructions from any state official to form this electoral bloc.

The "For the Love of Egypt" coalition was originally formed by Kamal El-Ganzouri, a former Mubarak-era prime minister. El-Ganzouri had to resign from the coalition last February after he faced accusations that his group aimed to pave the way for the return of Mubarak's former NDP officials to parliament.

El-Yazal, a former intelligence officer and director of Al-Gomhouria newspaper's Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said the list under the banner "For the Love of Egypt" will include high-profile figures who were never part of the Mubarak regime.

Informed sources, however, said an initial list, including around 56 potential high-profile candidates, will comprise some of Mubarak's NDP officials.

Topping the list of high-profile figures with "For the Love of Egypt" coalition are Mohamed El-Orabi, a former foreign affairs minister; Osama Heikal, chairman of the Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC); Taher Abu Zeid, a former minister of sports; Qadri Abu Hussein, a former provincial governor; and Ahmed Zaki Badr, a former high education minister.

The list also includes a big number of famous businessmen: oil business tycoon Akmal Qortam; electric cables tycoon Mohamed Zaki El-Sewedy; Agent of famous French car model Mohamed Wagih Abaza; Alexandria food industrialist Mohamed Farag Amer; and Sahar Talaat Mostafa, the daughter of the late Alexandria construction tycoon and former NDP MP Talaat Mostafa, and sister of Hisham Talaat Mostafa, who is currently serving 15 years in jail for killing a Lebanese artist in the Arab Gulf city of Dubai in 2008.

The list also includes a number of high-profile media figures such as Mostafa Bakri, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper of El-Osbou; and Emad Gad, a renowned Ahram political analyst.

It also comprises Ahmed Said, chairman of an information technology company and the former chairman of the Free Egyptians Party; and Mahmoud Badr, the founder of the tamaroud (rebel) movement, which played a central role in ousting former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

A number of Mubarak's former NDP officials and parliamentarians also stand on the list. They are El-Sayed Mahmoud El-Sherif (Sohag governorate), El-Sayed El-Moghazi (El-Beheira governorate); Salama El-Roki (Sinai), Mohamed Ahmed El-Zeini (Damietta governorate), Omar Moselhi (Sharkiya governorate), and Ahmed Raslan (Marsa Matruh governorate). Business tycoon Akmal Qortam was also a former official with Mubarak's NDP.

The list also includes two Coptic female political activists: Nadia Henri and Suzi Nashed. El-Ahram's political analyst Emad Gad said names on the above list come from all walks of life and many of them are national high-profile figures.

"They also include some former NDP figures who were not convicted of any corruption charges and who enjoy high popularity in their own districts," said Gad. Gamal Zahran, a former independent MP and coordinator of "the Social Justice" electoral coalition, said Sunday that there are growing fears that "For the Love of Egypt" enjoys the support of the government and that this could cast doubts over the impartiality of state authorities, especially security forces, during the vote."

Ahmed El-Zend, minister of justice, vowed that the coming parliamentary elections will be marked with integrity and transparency. "I vow that the world will praise the integrity of the coming parliamentary elections in Egypt," El-Zend said Sunday.

The first stage of parliamentary elections is set to begin on 17 October. Those wishing to run can register between 1 and 12 of September.

The HEC announced Monday that the scheduled registration period will be extended for additional three days, or until 15 September, in order to allow candidates to re-take their medical tests, in accordance to an administrative court ruling issued Monday.

Egypt's coming parliament will include 596, with 448 as independents, 120 as party-based MPs, and 28 as presidential nominees.

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