Scramble for the Senate seats

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 11 Aug 2020

The pro-government Mostaqbal Watan is expected to sweep the polls, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Scramble for the Senate seats
photo: Mohamed Maher

Egyptians voted Tuesday and Wednesday in the Senate elections amid tight anti-coronavirus measures.

Lasheen Ibrahim, head of the National Elections Authority (NEA), said the number of eligible voters was estimated at 63 million. “They were required to wear face masks and those who decided not to vote would be fined LE500,” Ibrahim said.

The election of the newly reconstituted Senate for Egyptians living abroad took place in 124 countries on Sunday and Monday.

A total of 787 candidates competed for individual seats in the new chamber, which was created as part of constitutional amendments approved last year.

 The Senate, whose term is set at five years, will have 300 members. One third will be elected via the individual candidacy system, a third through closed party lists, and a final third to be named by the president.

Early signals on Tuesday showed that the turnout was average but was relatively high during the afternoon and evening hours. Polling stations opened from 9am to 9pm.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and other high-ranking officials including Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and Speaker of Parliament Ali Abdel-Aal were keen to vote on the first day on Tuesday.

The two-day vote was held at nearly 14,000 polling stations across the country and were supervised by 18,000 judges.

Many expect that the polls would be swept by the Mostaqbal Watan Party (Future of the Homeland) which fielded the largest number of candidates. Political analysts agree that a National Unified List led by Mostaqbal Watan is sure to win 100 seats allocated to party lists.

“The list led by Mostaqbal Watan ran these seats uncontested and so needs just five per cent of the vote to be declared the winner,” Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie said, adding that “the 59 Mostaqbal Watan candidates on the Unified List represent 60 per cent.”

The competition for the 100 individual seats up for grabs, of which 95 were contested by Mostaqbal Watan, was tough. Mostaqbal Watan faced competition from 23 political parties.

Rabie said he expected that Mostaqbal Watan will win 50 individual seats. “This will allow Mostaqbal Watan to gain between 70 and 80 per cent of the Senate’s 200 contested seats and between 50 and 55 per cent of the Senate’s 300 seats in general,” Rabie said, adding that “this is quite enough to make it the majority party in the Senate.”

Mostaqbal Watan fielded 95 individual candidates in 26 governorates. The only governorate without a single individual Mostaqbal Watan candidate was the Red Sea.

Second to Mostaqbal Watan came the Guardians of the Nation Party which fielded 55 individual candidates in 18 governorates. Led by Galal Haridi, the founder of the Egyptian Commandos Army, the Guardians of the Nation won 18 seats in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Third came the Wafd Party which fielded 23 candidates in 13 governorates.

Rabie said he believed that the tough competition for the 100 individual seats was limited to the three parties: Mostaqbal Watan, the Guardians of the Nation and the Wafd. “These three parties alone are expected to win 80 per cent of the individual seats,” Rabie said.

There were 21 political parties also competing for the 100 individual seats, the most notable of which was the Islamist Al-Nour Party which fielded 17 candidates in 10 governorates. The Republican People’s Party, funded by steel tycoon and media mogul Ahmed Abu Hashima, fielded seven candidates in seven governorates. The National Movement Party, founded by former prime minister Ahmed Shafik, fielded 13 candidates in 13 governorates.

The two governorates of Cairo and Alexandria saw stiff competition. In Cairo, 11 political parties fielded 98 candidates who competed for 10 seats. A large number of independent candidates also vied for votes.

In Alexandria, the marathon saw five political parties fielding 67 candidates, in addition to independents.

The National Unified List led by Mostaqbal Watan, which is slated to win the 100 party list seats unopposed, includes some high-profile figures: the party leader, former chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razek, who is expected to become chairman of the Senate; construction magnate and former MP Mohamed Al-Morshedi; deputy Chairman of the party Hossam Al-Khouli; Wafd Party Deputy Chairman Yasser Al-Hodeibi; Wafd Assistant Secretary-General Tarek Al-Tohami; editor of the Tagammu Party’s mouthpiece Al-Ahali Amina Al-Naqash; Deputy Editor of the weekly Al-Osbou Mahmoud Bakri; and Chairman of the Social Democratic Party Farid Zahran.

Youssef Al-Husseini, spokesman for the Mostaqbal Watan-led National Unified List, told reporters on Tuesday that there was high turnout in Cairo. “This will make it easy for the Unified List to garner the five per cent vote [nearly three million] required by law to be declared the winner,” Al-Husseini said.

Al-Husseini dismissed the claim that boycott calls issued by Muslim Brotherhood television channels broadcasting from Turkey and Qatar had a negative impact on the turnout. “Aware of these calls, political parties did their best campaigning for participation in the polls,” Al-Husseini said, adding that “tough competition for the individual seats will lead to a second final round in September”. Senate law stipulates that if a party list runs unopposed, it is required to win at least five per cent of the vote in order to be declared the winner. If it fails to meet the threshold, new elections will be held.

The results of the first round of voting are expected to be announced Thursday though the vote count will be aired live on TV on Wednesday evening.

A second round of voting is slated for 8-9 September, with the results to be announced 16 September.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 13 August, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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