Egypt braces for parliamentary polls' 2nd round

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 13 Dec 2011

After initial electoral landslide last month, Islamist parties hope to sweep 2nd round of polling despite stiff competition from NDP holdovers

Egypt elections
The second round of parlimentary elections in Egypt kicks off Wednesday 14 December in nine governorates (Photo: AP)

Amid expectations of an unprecedentedly high voter turnout, the second round of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls is set to take place on Wednesday and Thursday (14 and 15 December). The second round will cover nine of Egypt’s 27 governorates, including Giza, Beni Sueif, Sohag, Aswan, Menoufiya, Sharqiya, Beheira, Ismailia and Suez.

Run-off elections are slated for 21 and 22 December.

In line with the Constitutional Declaration issued in March, 4,589 polling stations will be put under the direct supervision of almost 10,000 judges.

In Wednesday’s contest, a total of 3,387 candidates (compared to 3,200 in the first stage) will compete for 180 parliamentary seats (compared to 168 seats contested in the first stage).

According to figures issued by the Cabinet Information Decision Support Centre (IDSC), 2,271 candidates will compete for 60 seats reserved for independent candidates, while 1,116 candidates will vie for 120 seats reserved for party lists.

The IDSC also notes that as many as 18.7 million Egyptians will be eligible to vote in this stage. “Not to mention the fact that some 355,000 Egyptians living abroad have also registered to vote in the second round, with most living in Arab Gulf countries,” according to the IDSC.

As was the case in the first stage, four Islamist parties – the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Salafist Nour Party, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya’s Reconstruction and Development Party, and the centrist Wasat Party – are hoping for an electoral landslide.

The FJP, which secured almost 75 seats in the first round of voting – accounting for around 43 per cent of the total of seats up for grabs – plans to field 175 candidates in this week’s second round.

On 11 December, the FJP announced that 55 of its candidates would vie for seats reserved for independents, while 120 would contest seats reserved for party lists. At least ten FJP candidates are former Muslim Brotherhood MPs hoping to draw on their electoral experience to secure seats in the incoming assembly. Among these is leading Brotherhood member Essam El-Erian, who is running in the urban Giza Governorate.

The largest number of FJP candidates are concentrated in rural governorates of the Nile Delta, including Beheira (30 candidates) and Sharqiya and Menoufiya (56 candidates together). While Beheira and Sharqiya are both considered historical Brotherhood strongholds, FJP candidates there are nevertheless expected to face stiff competition from holdovers of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP).

In the Menoufiya Governorate, for example, in which the families of Mubarak and his predecessor, late president Anwar Sadat, boast a significant presence, FJP candidates are expected to face an uphill battle.

In the Upper Egyptian governorate of Sohag, meanwhile, tribal and familial affiliations are expected to work against the FJP. Sohag, notably, is home to a large number of former NDP members who are traditional foes of Muslim Brotherhood. Among these are Ahmed Abu Heggy and former police officer Hazem Hamadi.

Overall, NDP remnants are expected to constitute the primary counterweight to Islamist parties in the second round. In the Sharqiya Governorate, for example, Ali El-Moselhi, former NDP minister of social solidarity, is running against two Islamist rivals in the district of Abu Kebeir.

Meanwhile, the ultraconservative Salafists – Egypt’s second Islamist force, largely embodied by the recently-established Nour Party – is fielding 114 candidates in the second round. Many believe that the Nour Party’s unexpectedly strong showing in the first stage of polling will turn into a retreat in the second stage.

In the first round of voting late last month, the Nour Party secured 28 of the seats reserved for party lists. In the run-off stage, however, the party won only six of the 56 contested seats, with its spokesman, Abdel Moneim El-Shahat, suffering a crushing defeat in Alexandria at the hands of secular lawyer Hosni Dewidar.

Meanwhile, the Reconstruction and Development Party of the Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya – which allegedly masterminded the 1981 assassination of late president Sadat – won two seats in the first stage of voting. The party is fielding 16 candidates in the second stage, 13 of whom will contest independent seats.

The Wasat Party, meanwhile, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that won four seats in the first stage, is fielding 79 candidates in this week’s second stage.

As for the secular parties that picked up only 50 seats in the first stage, these aim to offset their initial losses in the second stage. The liberal Egyptian Bloc electoral coalition – which includes the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the liberal Free Egyptians party and the leftist Tagammu Party – will compete for 30 per cent of the seats reserved for independent candidates in the second stage.

Several young activists associated with Egypt’s January 25 Revolution will feature on the Egyptian Bloc’s ticket, including Khaled Talima, Mohamed El-Kassas and Islam Lotfi, all three of whom are members of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition. All three are expected to face difficult battles against FJP and Nour Party candidates.

Other liberal forces, such as the Wafd Party (led by businessman El-Sayed El-Badawi) and the Reform and Development Party (led by Anwar Essmat Sadat, a nephew of the slain president), are fielding 118 and 108 candidates, respectively, in the second round.

NDP offshoot parties, meanwhile, such as the Egyptian Citizen Party, the Conservative Party and the Horreya Party, will together field some 200 candidates. A number of other NDP veterans will contest the elections as independents.

The urban Giza Governorate is expected to witness the hardest-fought second-round battles. Prominent members of the FJP, including former Brotherhood MPs Essam El-Erian and Azzab Mostafa, will face stiff competition from Wafd Party candidate Abdel-Wahab Khalil (a former Giza chief security officer) and Egyptian Bloc candidates Omada Shanab, a former MP, and the Tagammu’s Abdel Rashid Hilal.

In Giza’s Imbaba and Dokki districts, a mix of candidates associated with different political ideologies will lock horns. These include Amr El-Shobaki, a political analyst with the Adl Party; Kamal Abu Eita, member of the Nasserist Karama Party; and former footballer Nader El-Sayed for the Wasat Party.

In the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira, the fight will be fierce between the FJP, the Nour Party and NDP diehards. In Damanhour, Beheira’s capital, FJP leader and former Brotherhood MP Gamal Heshmat will top the FJP’s candidate list against the Egyptian Bloc and candidates fielded by the defunct NDP’s Egyptian Citizen Party.

Beheira is largely seen as a Salafist and Brotherhood stronghold, but it also features large numbers of NDP loyalists. In the Kom Hamada district, for example, Farouk El-Mikrahi, a former police chief and NDP parliamentarian, will stand against Brotherhood rival Abdel-Hamid Shukr.

In Sharqiya, meanwhile, also considered a Brotherhood bastion, former NDP minister Ali El-Moselhi will face off against Brotherhood candidate El-Sayed Abdel-Hamid.

In the Upper Egyptian Sohag Governorate, 13 political parties will compete for eight seats. Here, former NDP MPs will have the upper hand, with most running as independents or as members of the Egyptian Citizen Party. The FJP, for its part, will field 27 candidates in Sohag.

The same can be said of the Upper Egyptian governorates of Aswan and Beni Sueif, where the dismantled NDP remains a force to be reckoned with.

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