The National Election Authority (NEA) said on Monday that 140 polling stations, located in Egyptian embassies and consulates in 124 countries, would be open for voting by expats on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Voters at home will follow suit, in the first stage ballot for the House of Representatives, on Saturday and Sunday (24 and 25 October), with the result of the first round of voting announced “on 1 November at the latest”.
Any run-offs are scheduled for 21-23 November for Egyptians abroad and 23-24 November for those at home, with the final result of the first stage to be declared by 30 November.
NEA head Lasheen Ibrahim told Al-Ahram on 15 October that 10,240 polling stations will be operating in 14 governorates in the first stage, and 10,292 in 13 governorates in the second stage.
The polls will be supervised by 11,000 judges, and local and foreign media, human rights organisations and candidate representatives will be free to monitor the elections. Candidates, Ibrahim added, will have the right to lodge appeals against NEA decisions with administrative courts.
A total of 284 seats will be up for grabs in the first stage of parliamentary elections, half of them contested via the individual candidacy system, and through party lists.
The 142 individual seats cover 72 districts in 14 governorates — Giza, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Minya, Assiut, the New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, the Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira and Matrouh — and will be fought over by 1,879 individual candidates.
Campaigning in the first stage ended on 18 October. In the Giza, Dokki and Agouza district 18 candidates are battling it out. They include ceramics tycoon Mohamed Abul-Enein, journalist Abdel-Rehim Ali, Mostaqbal Watan candidates Montasser Riad and Haggag Mohamed Hanafi, and Ahmed Mansour, son of the controversial chairman of Zamalek Sporting Club, MP Mortada Mansour.
Abdel-Rehim Ali told the media on Saturday that though he was competing against a high-profile businessman and two wealthy candidates affiliated with the majority Mostaqbal Watan Party the NEA’s ceiling of LE500,000 on individuals’ campaigns has neutralised the power of money.
Ali swept the polls in 2015, winning 95 per cent of the votes.
“I hope I will achieve the same success this year, though the joining of Giza, Dokki and Agouza in a single district makes the task harder,” said Ali.
Abul-Enein said he refused to stand as a Mostaqbal Watan Party list candidate, preferring to run as an individual and banking on his popularity in the Giza district.
In 6 October, 50 candidates, including businessmen, real estate investors and seven women, are standing. Mostaqbal Watan is fielding three candidates, the Free Egyptians two and the Wafd one.
In Hurghada, investors in the tourism sector and businessmen are fighting for the city’s two seats. Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, the owner of a tourist village and a Mostaqbal Watan candidate, is competing against Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, an independent candidate and a tourist investor.
In Alexandria, 215 candidates from different political forces, including the Salafist Nour Party, are doing battle. In the west Alexandria district of Al-Montazah alone, 74 candidates are standing, 60 of them independent and 14 fielded by political parties.
The first round’s 142 party list seats cover two districts in 14 governorates: the North, Middle and South of Upper Egypt, covering 11 governorates and returning 100 MPs, and West Delta, covering three governorates and returning 42 MPs.
The Mostaqbal Watan-led National Unified Coalition is expected to make a clean sweep of the two districts where it is running against the little-known Call of Egypt bloc which competed in the 2015 polls but failed to win a seat.
Journalist Mustafa Bakri, a Mostaqbal Watan Party list candidate, said the coalition had held public rallies in many upper Egyptian cities where “we met different people from different classes, clerics, businessmen and merchants, and alerted them to the importance of casting their votes.”
In Beni Sweif, Bakri said the Mostaqbal Watan-led coalition had stressed that the party list included candidates from 12 political parties.
“We told them that the party is not trying to monopolise political life, and that our objective is to widen the scope of political participation, underlining that our coalition includes representatives from leftist, liberal and centrist parties.”
Political analyst Gamal Zahran told Al-Ahram Weekly that though the first stage is likely to see fierce competition among independent candidates he expects Mostaqbal Watan to easily win in the two party-list districts.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly