Islamist parties braced to pick up more seats in Egypt's 2nd-round runoffs

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 21 Dec 2011

Second-round parliamentary runoffs begin today, with Muslim Brotherhood's FJP and Salafist Nour Party the clear frontrunners

Egypt elections
An Egyptian woman is seen through a ballot box while she prepares to vote at a polling center in Giza, Egypt Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 (Photo: AP)

Runoff elections for the second round of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls kicked off on Wednesday and will wrap up on Thursday. Initial voter turnout rates in the early hours of Wednesday’s polling appeared modest, but are expected to rise in the afternoon.

Overall, 118 independent candidates – competing for 59 individual seats – qualified to compete in the runoffs. Voters on Wednesday will also cast ballots for party lists in three constituencies in the governorates of Menoufiya, Beheira and Sohag after a court ruled last week to postpone balloting in these districts since the names of some candidates had not been included on voting cards.

This week’s runoffs are being held in nine governorates: Giza, Beni Sueif, Sohag, Aswan, Menoufiya, Sharqiya, Beheira, Suez and Ismailiya.

The two main Islamist parties – the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafist Nour Party –  together received nearly 65 per cent of the seats reserved for party-based candidates in second-round voting on 14 and 15 December. The two parties are expected to pick up even more seats in runoff contests, ensuring them both commanding positions in Egypt’s first post-revolution parliament.

Semi-official figures released by Egypt’s Supreme Elections Commission (SEC) show that the FJP garnered 36 per cent of the party-list vote in the second round, while the Nour Party secured 28 per cent.

These results conflicted slightly with preliminary figures announced by the two parties. Some FJP officials had said the party had won 39 percent of the party-list vote, while Nour Party officials had said they had captured "over 30 per cent of the lists in the second round."

The FJP also announced on 20 December that its independent candidates had likewise made a strong showing in second-round voting. “As many as 47 of 65  independent candidates have qualified for runoffs,” said FJP officials. “We expect at least 27 of these will win independent seats.”

Early results have also confirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP is leading all other parties – by a wide margin – after the first two rounds of voting, bearing out claims that  the FJP represents Egypt’s best organised political party.

The Nour Party, meanwhile, likewise gave a strong showing in the elections’ second round, securing almost 28 percent of the seats reserved for party lists. The Salafist party is fielding 34 candidates in this week’s runoffs.

As it now stands,  three Islamist parties – the FJP, Nour and the Al- Wasat Party (a Brotherhood offshoot) – have so far secured almost 140 seats in the first two rounds of polling, held on 28/29 November and 14/15 December.

In second-round runoffs, which began on Wednesday and will continue Thursday, Islamist parties are expected to clinch at least 40 more seats. This is out of a total of 348 seats up for grabs, of which 168 were contested in the first round and 180 in the second.

The FJP, however, is only one of 11 parties that make up the Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance electoral coalition.

Final second-round results reveal that the Alliance secured 40 per cent of the seats reserved for party lists. Estimates suggest that at least 20 per cent of these are not FJP candidates, however, but belong to other parties within the Alliance. The Nour Party, for its part, came in second, with 24.4 per cent of party-list seats.

Liberal parties, meanwhile, including the Egyptian Bloc and the Wafd Party, picked up 29.3 percent of contested seats.

According to SEC Chairman Judge Abdel-Moez Ibrahim, second-round polling, which took place in nine of Egypt’s 27 governorates on 14 and 15 December, saw voter turnout rates of 67 per cent.

At an 18 December press conference, Ibrahim stressed that “army and security forces deeply respect the judges mandated with supervising elections.” The statement came in the wake of complaints by the Egyptian Judges Club that a number of judges had been mistreated by army police officers while monitoring the vote.

Ibrahim also announced results of the vote for seats reserved for independent candidates, noting that only one candidate had won outright. This was Mohamed Anwar Esmat El-Sadat, nephew of late president Anwar El-Sadat and chairman of the liberal Reform and Development Party (RDF). El-Sadat was elected in the Tala district of the Nile Delta governorate of Menoufiya (the hometown of both the El-Sadat and Mubarak families).

“This vindicates me because diehards of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) conspired against me in 2007 to strip me of my parliamentary membership,” El-Sadat said. “This was because I had attacked Gamal Mubarak, son of the former president and heir apparent, and accused him of cronyism.”

El-Sadat went on to declare that he was not perturbed by the apparent Islamist electoral landslide. “I think we, as secular and liberal opposition MPs, will stand firm against notions of turning Egypt into a religious state,” he said.

Secular parties’ electoral performances improved slightly in the second round. While the liberal Egyptian Bloc coalition retreated in second-round polling, Egypt’s oldest liberal party – The Wafd – managed to secure a slightly larger number of seats than it did in the first round.

While the Bloc captured only eight seats, the Wafd Party managed to pick up 15. In total, the Bloc secured 7 per cent of contested seats, raising the total number of its winning candidates to 22. The Wafd Party, meanwhile, captured 9 per cent, upping its total to 22 seats. The Bloc and Wafd Party are fielding only one candidate each in Wednesday’s and Thursday’s runoff elections.

Yet another liberal force, the Reform and Development Party led by Esmat El-Sadat, meanwhile, secured five seats, while the “Revolution Continues” – an alliance of leftist parties – has also clinched five seats so far.

Notably, a handful of NDP-affiliated parties secured 16.8 per cent of contested seats. These include the Conservative Party, the Egyptian Citizen Party, the National Egypt Party and the Democratic Peace Party.

This is not to mention that as many as 11 former NDP MPs have qualified for this week’s runoffs in five governorates. At the head of these is former minister of social solidarity Ali El-Moselhi, who faces a tough battle against the FJP’s Mohamed Fayyad in the Abu Kibir district of the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya.

The second round of polling, however, also saw the defeat of several NDP stalwarts. In Sohag, a long-time NDP stronghold, former NDP deputies Ahmed Abu Heggi and Hazem Hamadi both received a drubbing at the hands of their respective rivals.

FJP and Nour Party candidates will face off against one another for 22 seats in second-round runoffs. The two parties will also compete against independents and liberal candidates for another 34 seats. This strongly suggests that Islamist parties will win no less than 30 seats in Wednesday’s and Thursday’s runoff vote.

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