Ashraf Rashad, secretary-general of the majority Mostaqbal Watan (The Future of Homeland) Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that two rounds of meetings were held last week with leaders of political parties and forces to discuss the upcoming parliamentary elections. The first round included the Adl (Justice), the People’s Republican, the Moatamer (Conference), Modern Egypt, and the Guardians of the Nation parties, while the second included the Ghad (Tomorrow), Wafd, and Tagammu.
The meetings came after parliament passed election laws on 17 June in preparation for parliamentary elections scheduled for November.
“We have two parliamentary polls in the second half of 2020, to elect a 300-seat Senate and a new 596-seat House of Representatives,” said Rashad. Fifty per cent of the seats will be elected via a closed party list system which Rashad says “compels political parties to form coalitions to contest the elections.”
Amendments to the House law increased the number of elected MPs from 540 to 568.
Half will be elected via the individual system, and half through the closed list system. Twenty-five per cent of the total number of seats (125 seats) will be reserved for women, and the president is authorised to appoint 28 MPs.
The closed list system means that a party which wins 51 per cent of the votes in any district will take all that district’s seats. “This is different from the proportional list system in which each party list is allocated seats in proportion to the votes it wins per district,” said Rashad.
Many political parties will face an uphill battle to win more than 50 per cent of the vote and so will be forced to join forces and run on multi-party lists.
“We want the majority of political forces to be represented in parliament and this will not be possible without closing ranks. We want three or four strong coalitions that can contest the poll,” said Rashad.
Rashad revealed that parliament will discuss a new law on the redrawing of electoral districts within days.
Mostaqbal Watan was able to win 57 seats (nine per cent) in the 2015 election running on a list that included seven political parties, Rashad explained. “In preparing for the coming poll, we want more than seven political parties to join our list.”
Mostaqbal Watan trailed the Free Egyptians Party which won 65 seats (11 per cent).
Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, the chairman of Wafd, Egypt’s oldest political party, met with leaders of Mostaqbal Watan on 23 June. “Though we would be able to contest the Senate and the House poll in all districts this does mean that we are against joining a strong coalition to contest the poll,” said Abu Shoka.
In 2015, the Wafd won 36 seats (six per cent).
Galal Haridi, the former army colonel who chairs the Guardians of the Nation Party, told the Weekly that the party is open to dialogue ahead of the elections. “I think it is better for our party to join a strong coalition to contest the poll,” said Haridi.
According to Rashad, nine political parties have expressed interest in joining the party’s list, a number he expects to grow. By the time of the election he hopes to field a coalition list of 12 parties, possibly including the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party.
Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie expects four major coalitions to contest the Senate and House elections: the Mostaqbal Watan list, the Free Egyptians list, the Wafd list, and the Salafist Nour list.
“Leftist political parties, including the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party, the Nasserist, the Tagammu, and the Popular Socialist Alliance might choose to form their own coalition in which case we could see five competing lists,” said Rabie.
Rabie had hoped MPs would back a proportional rather than a closed list system.
“In the closed system, a party list which wins 51 per cent of the votes in a district will be entitled to all that district’s seats even if another list won 49 per cent of the vote. This is a major drawback that could prevent some forces from gaining parliamentary representation.”
He noted that the 50 per cent of seats elected via the individual candidacy system could open the door to Islamist candidates with links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Speculation is rife whether the Senate and House elections will be held in November as scheduled. A recent report in Akhbar Al-Youm claimed that the Senate polls will be held in August, and only the elections to the House in November.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Suleiman Wahdan said the timing of the polls will depend on the coronavirus pandemic. He, too, expects the Senate election will be held in August “because the Senate districts are large enough to allow for socially distanced voting”.
Parliamentary Speaker Salah Hassaballah expects that parliamentary elections will be held on schedule.
“It’s the Interior Ministry that has the final say on whether the polls are held simultaneously or not,” he said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 July, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly