Campaigning for the House of Representatives election will end on Sunday 18 October, three days before expatriate Egyptians go to the polls on 21 October, and six before the polls open for Egyptians at home.
The National Election Authority (NEA) has initially accepted the nominations of 4,032 candidates but on Monday the number decreased to 3964 after 68 candidates withdrew.
Non official figures suggest 2,000 individual candidates and two coalitions — the National Unified List led by Mostaqbal Watan Party and the Call of Egypt — will compete in the first stage of the poll in 14 governorates — Giza, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Minya, Assuit, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira and Marsa Matrouh.
Of the 284 seats up for grabs in this stage, half — 142 seats — are allocated to individual candidates in 72 districts, and half to party lists in two districts, North, Middle and South Upper Egypt (100 seats in 11 governorates) and Western Delta (42 seats in three governorates).
Thirty-eight political parties are fielding candidates in the two-stage election. The pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party, which currently holds majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, is fielding 284, the largest number from any party.
Mostaqbal Watan is contesting all 143 individual districts as well as the four party list districts. In some cases, including the governorate of Qena, the party will have two candidates competing against one another. The Guardians of the Nation Party is fielding 109 candidates across 24 governorates, the Wafd Party 63 candidates in 23 governorates, and the People’s Republican Party 53 candidates in 22 governorates.
Cairo, where 59 candidates (29 from Mostaqbal Watan, 15 from Guardians of the Nation, eight from Al-Wafd, four from the Republicans and three from the Free Egyptian Party) are competing for 31 individual seats in 19 districts, is expected to see the fiercest battles. In Alexandria 41 candidates, including, 15 from Mostaqbal Watan, five from Guardians of the Nation, four from the Nour and one from the Wafd, are competing for 16 seats in five districts.
In Giza 44 candidates will compete for 25 seats in 12 districts. Mostaqbal Watan is fielding 23 candidates, the Guardians of the Nation 10, the Freedom party six, the People’s Republican Party three candidates and the Wafd two.
In Giza’s Dokki and Agouza district 18 individual candidates are standing, including ceramics tycoon Mohamed Abul-Enein, journalist and political Islam researcher Abdel-Rehim Ali, Mostaqbal Watan candidates Montasser Riad and Haggag Mohamed Hanafi, and Ahmed, Mansour, son of the Chairman of Zamalek Sporting Club Mortada Mansour.
Hossam Al-Khouli, Mostaqbal Watan’s deputy chairman, said his party has more members and offices across Egypt than any other and will finance its campaign out of the “generous donations” it has received.
The NEA has set a spending limit of LE500,000 on individual campaigns, falling to LE200,000 in the event of a re-run. The 100-seat party list spending limit is capped at LE10.6 million, and LE6.6 million in the event of a rerun. The 42-seat party list limit is LE7 million, and LE2.8 million for a rerun.
Campaign donations are restricted to Egyptian nationals and cannot exceed five per cent of funding ceiling.
Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the liberal Reform and Development Party, said in a TV interview on Sunday that most political parties in Egypt were underfunded.
“You can’t field candidates if you have no money to spend on their campaigns which is why most political parties opted to join the Mostaqbal Watan-led National Unified Coalition and compete for party list seats,” said Al-Sadat.
The list includes 12 political parties from across the political spectrum.
Mohamed Farid Zahran, chairman of the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party, told Extra News Channel that most political parties are facing an economic crisis opted to join the National Unified List in the hope of securing a foothold in parliament.
NEA regulations forbid the use of slogans that discriminate on religious or racial grounds, the use of public sector institutions or means of transport, and the involvement of mosques and churches in the election campaign.
On Sunday, the Religious Endowments Ministry took action against three imams from the Nile Delta governorate of Qalioubiya after they promoted parliamentary candidates in a breach of the ministry’s instructions.
The ministry, which is responsible for the administration of mosques, has warned against exploiting places of worship during the election and has demanded all imams distance themselves from campaign activity.
In an official statement on Sunday the ministry said it had relieved an imam of his administrative duties as a departmental director and re-posted him for campaign infringements. Two other imams have been transferred to South Sinai and Alexandria for the same reason, the statement added.
Anba Macarius, bishop of Minya, said the church neither “favours candidates nor participates in public rallies” and will remain neutral throughout the election process.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly