Candidate registration for Egypt’s parliamentary elections begins today. It will be the first general election for the People's Assembly (the lower house of Parliament) since the 18-day uprising and the subsequent ouster of president Hosni Mubarak on 11 February.
The registration window will be open for seven days, as most political forces decide to participate, opting not to boycott.
For its part, the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) refused to issue a "Treason Law" aimed at preventing the diehards of Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) from standing in parliamentary elections.
Abdel Moez Ibrahim, chairman of the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), said the appeal courts in each of Egypt’s 27 governorates will be tasked with receiving the required registration papers. The courts will be open to submission each day from 9am to 2pm. On the final day – 18 October, the registration period will be extended until 5pm.
In line with recent laws regulating parliamentary polls, two-thirds of the seats in each house will be contested through the party-list system, while the remaining third will be reserved to candidates who aim to run as independents. On 8 October, SCAF revoked Article 5 of a constitutional declaration issued on 25 September, allowing political parties to field candidates for the seats reserved for independents.
During the registration process, candidates will fill out separate forms corresponding to one of the two voting systems.
NDP diehards are expected to be among the first of those scrambling to register for elections.
In recent weeks, members of the dissolved NDP have joined several newly-licensed political parties, stepping up their campaigns and resisting attempts to strip them of their right to run. They held a conference in Upper Egypt on 5 October, threatening to launch a series of "retaliatory attacks" against those seeking to "assassinate them politically."
A number of NDP offshoots – such as the Horreya (Freedom) Party and the Egyptian Citizens Party – said they will field candidates all over Egypt.
Their leaders have indicated that they are considering the possibility of forming an alliance in order to field candidates on one ticket in certain districts. Three former NDP ministers said they aim to stand in the coming elections. These include Mostafa El-Said, a former finance minister; Ali El-Moselhi, a former minister of social solidarity, and Mahmoud Abu Zeid, a former minister of water resources and irrigation.
In contrast, two major political forces, the liberal Wafd Party and the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), ended their long "honeymoon." The former decided to withdraw from the Democratic Alliance, opting to put forward its own list of candidates.
The Democratic Alliance now includes some 33 political parties; the most important of which are the Brotherhood's FJP and political activist Ayman Nour’s New Ghad Party. The Alliance plans to contest seats covered by the party-list system on one ticket. The FJP will get the lion’s share, with its candidates accounting for 45 per cent of the total number of contested seats. Candidates belonging to the New Ghad and the Nasserists are expected to account for 20 per cent, while 35 per cent will be reserved for remaining parties.
A record number of candidates are expected to register irrespective of the fact that some political forces called for a boycott in protest at SCAF’s refusal to prevent members of the old ruling party from running in the forthcoming polls. A blacklist of more than 500 NDP remnants was, however, published by the so-called "25th January Revolution’s shadow government", urging citizens not to vote for any of them.
In general, four leading forces are expected to dominate the lists of candidates: Islamists, secularists (liberals and leftists), NDP remnants, and youth belonging to movements birthed out of the January 25 Revolution.
Ahead of registration, political forces quarrelled over the use of religious slogans. SCAF’s amendment of the 1956 law pertaining to the exercise of political rights on 5 October stated that electoral campaigns based on religious slogans or sex or ethnic discrimination are banned, and whoever embarks on one will face at least three-months jail time and a LE6000 to LE12000 fine. Islamist party leaders rejected the enforcement of such penalties.
Mohamed El-Beltagi, a leading member of the FJP, said, "Political parties joining the Democratic Alliance have not yet reached a decision on a certain slogan.
The issue of using the Muslim Brotherhood’s long-running slogan "Islam is the Solution" was not on the agenda and when the time for campaigning comes, the Alliance's slogan will be decided by all of its members." However, Saad El-Katatni, secretary-general of the FJP, has said that "its candidates will stick to the slogan 'Islam Is the Solution' because it was approved by the Supreme Administrative Court."
The Brotherhood’s "Islam is the Solution" slogan was banned under the rule of deposed president Mubarak.
Salafist parties and members of the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya (the Islamic Group) said they insist on raising religious slogans.
Liberal forces remained steadfast in their opposition of raising religious slogans during the election campaigns. "This reflects an ideology of Islamist parties which is based on mixing politics with religion," asserted Nabil Zaki, spokesman of the leftist Tagammu Party.
The SEC said it has selected a number of 149 election symbols, with none of them reflecting religious or sectarian insinuations. It also indicated that the old symbols of the "Crescent" and "Camel" will be excluded from the list "because the first could be a religious one; not to mention that the two had been used by Mubarak’s NDP."
For LE200, each candidate has the right to obtain a complete list of registered voters in their electoral district, according to the SEC.