Accusations of vote buying in Helwan

Salma Shukrallah, Sunday 28 Nov 2010

In Helwan district’s elections, accusations are traded of unfair advantage while the Muslim Brotherhood faces police obstruction.

NDP candidate Sayed Meshaal, minister of state for military production, accused of distributing money to voters. Source: Twitpic

Several complaints have been filed against Sayed Meshaal, minister of state for military production, by opposing candidate Mostafa Bakry, accusing him of using state resources and the ministry’s money for his electoral campaign for the Helwan district seat. “I am accusing Meshaal of spending LE50 million on his election campaign,” said Bakry.

Bakry’s first complaint against Meshaal, however, is that he does not meet the basic requirements to run for election in Helwan. According to Bakry, one of the prime requirements for a person to be eligible for candidacy in any given constituency is to “live in the area where he is running, or to have an interest in it, and Meshaal has neither.”

Since Helwan became an independent governorate, the constituency boundaries changed, rearranging voter blocs and the candidates’ supporters. Bakry used to gain support from a different constituency than Meshaal. Now they are competing over the same voters. To undermine Bakry’s criticisms, Meshaal gave out a CD showing Bakry supporting him in the previous elections.

But Meshaal is not only facing criticism from Bakry. Activists have been circulating, via social media sites, a picture of Meshaal giving out LE10 notes to people in the streets. No comment was available from the Meshaal campaign.

Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Ramadan Omar has different complaints. According to Omar, National Democratic Party (Egypt’s ruling party) candidates are left to freely campaign, while “I am under 24-hour police supervision. If I use a car to publicise my campaign it gets stopped after less than a hundred metres under the fallacy that it disturbs the public.”

Omar added that delegates from his campaign are barred from supervising the elections, in contrast to all other candidates. Bakry, for example, confirmed that from his campaign some 250 delegates would supervise the poll.

Omar’s last rally, which took place on 19 November, was halted by police, according to the candidate’s website, with the driver of the car leading the campaign tour arrested. On 22 November, another Omar rally was cancelled after state security trucks blocked the main road of Maasara, in Helwan constituency, where Brotherhood supporters were praying.

Frequent clashes have been witnessed between Brotherhood supporters and police forces in several constituencies nationwide.

Helwan’s main voter blocs are divided into “Arabs” (inhabitants originally from Arab tribes), the bloc of voters from Upper Egypt, the workers bloc and Muslim Brotherhood supporters. However, loyalties overlap between these four divisions.

Bakry usually depends on voters from Upper Egypt, where he is known to have the most influence, and Omar depends on both workers and Brotherhood voters. Bakry is also popular for his stands in parliament when he was a member. He is known to have submitted the highest number of questions directed at cabinet ministers on charges of wrongdoing.

Candidates running in Helwan constituency include three for the professionals’ seats (Mostafa Bakry, Sayed Meshaal and Mohamed Helil — an independent candidate from the Arabs bloc). There are also three NDP candidates, two Brotherhood candidates, one Tagammu candidate and four independents (of which three are members of NDP and one of Tagammu Party) running for the workers’ seats.

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