An estimated 31 million voters in 13 governorates will head to the polls next Saturday and Sunday (7-8 November) to cast their ballots in the second stage of parliamentary elections. Egyptian expats in 124 countries began voting on Wednesday and Thursday (4-5 November).
A total of 284 seats will be up for grabs in the second stage of parliamentary elections, half of them (142 seats) contested via the individual candidacy system, and the other half through party lists.
The 142 individual seats cover 71 districts in the 13 governorates of Cairo, Qalioubiya, Daqahliya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai — and will be competed over by 2,100 individual candidates.
As for the 142 party list seats, they will be competed for in two districts in 14 governorates: Cairo, North, Middle and South Delta, covering six governorates and returning 100 MPs, and East Delta, covering nine governorates and returning 42 MPs.
The Mostaqbal Watan-led National List coalition, which swept the first round of the polls last week, will face competition from two blocs in the two party list districts. In Cairo, North, Middle and South Delta, the National Coalition will stand against the Alliance of the Independents which comprises four political parties: Al-Arabi, Justice and Equality, the Voice of the People, and the Victory. Hisham Al-Anani, the leader of the alliance, said he hopes that his coalition will be able to achieve a good result in the Cairo and Delta district. “We and the Mostaqbal Watan coalition will be the only two forces competing in this district and we hope that competition will be fair,” said Al-Anani, adding that “its 100 candidates on the Cairo and Delta party list district include many public figures, young people and women.”
A third coalition, the Sons of Egypt, will be the only force competing against Mostaqbal Watan’s National Coalition in the Eastern Delta district (42 seats).
Medhat Barakat, a real estate and contracting businessman and the founder of the Sons of Egypt Party, is, like Mostaqbal Watan, a strong supporter of the policies of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
Many expect that the obscure blocs of the Alliance of the Independents and the Sons of Egypt have little chance against the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan-led National List Coalition. The coalition dominated the first stage of the polls, gaining 142 seats reserved for party lists.
Mostaqbal Watan (the Nation’s Future) also has hundreds of individual candidates in the second stage of the election. In East Cairo’s district of Heliopolis and Nasr City, for example, three Mostaqbal Watan candidates are battling against each other: businessmen Ahmed Al-Sallab and Tarek Shoukri, and Chairman of Heliopolis Sporting Club Amr Al-Sonbati.
In downtown Cairo’s district of Abdine, Ashraf Hatem, the Mostaqbal Watan’s candidate and a former minister of health, is facing fierce competition from businessman Amr Helal.
In south Cairo’s district of Al-Basatin and Dar Al-Salam, two Mostaqbal Watan candidates — Heshmat Abu Hagar and Khaled Tantawi — are competing against a plethora of candidates, notably Akmal Qortam, an oil business tycoon and chairman of the Conservatives Party.
In Cairo, there are 59 candidates competing for 31 seats in 19 districts, with Mostaqbal Watan having the biggest number (29 candidates).
Meanwhile, head of the National Election Authority (NEA) Lasheen Ibrahim said the result of the first round of voting in the second stage will be announced on 15 November at the latest. “The run-off round is scheduled for 5-7 December for Egyptians abroad and 7-8 December for those at home, with the final result of the second stage to be declared by 14 December,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim told a press conference on Sunday that individual candidates, most of them affiliated with Mostaqbal Watan, won 32 seats in 18 districts in the first stage of the election, including 12 in Giza, three in the Red Sea, two in Alexandria, and one in Fayoum.
“The run-off round for the first stage of the election will be held on 21-23 November for Egyptians abroad and 23-24 November for Egyptians at home,” said Lasheen, indicating that “110 individual seats will be up for grabs in 13 governorates.”
The success of the Mostaqbal Watan-led National List Coalition in the first round of the first stage of the polls came as no surprise. The coalition faced zero competition from the little known “Call of Egypt” bloc, not to mention that its richly funded election campaigns covered all of the two party list districts in Upper Egypt and the Western Delta (Alexandria, Beheira and Matrouh). “There was no campaigning at all from the Call of Egypt bloc, not to mention that most voters were not aware of this bloc, what its platform is and who are its candidates,” said political analyst Gamal Zahran, noting that “by contrast, the National List Coalition’s election campaigns were widely covered by the media, and its candidates such as Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal are well known figures to most voters. I think the same will be true with the second stage and that the Mostaqbal Watan-led coalition is braced to sweep the remaining two party lists whose 142 seats are up for grabs in this stage,” Zahran said.
Amr Hashem Rabie, an Ahram political analyst, said the competition in the current election in general is limited to individual seats. “We can say that the Mostaqbal Watan coalition’s winning of 284 seats allocated to party lists in the two-stage election is a foregone conclusion,” Rabie said, adding that “the coalition won 124 seats in the first stage, and is expected to repeat the same scenario in the second stage of the election.
“It was difficult for any political force to contest the four party list districts due to the huge financial costs of campaigning, a fact which paved the way for the wealthy Mostaqbal Watan coalition to win without facing any significant competition,” Rabie said.
The Mostaqbal Watan Party’s individual candidates in the first stage also made massive gains. In Giza governorate, for example, Mostaqbal Watan not only won most of the individual seats in most districts, but many of its candidates qualified for the run-off.
Figures and names released by the National Election Authority, however, show that many independent candidates were also able to win seats in the first round or qualify for the run-off stage. In Alexandria, for example, six independent candidates will join the run-off, including Haitham Al-Hariri, the spokesman of the leftist 25-30 group in parliament.
The candidates of some other political parties also did well in individual competition. The People’s Republican Party won two seats in Giza, while four candidates affiliated with the Guardians of the Nation Party and the Salafist Nour Party were able to make it to the run-off round.
NEA head Ibrahim said voter turnout in the first round of the first stage election — held on 24-25 October at home — came in at 28.3 per cent. “It was a competitive election and it was held in line with the highest standards of transparency and integrity,” Ibrahim said, adding that “despite the coronavirus crisis, Egyptians were motivated to actively participate in the polls, sending a message that they are ready at all times to exercise their national duties.”
Zahran noted that the 28.3 per cent voter turnout was double the figure registered in the Senate polls (14 per cent). “It was also higher by two per cent than that reported in the 2015 election (26 per cent),” Zahran said.
Zahran, however, said the number of people casting their ballots in the first round of the first stage was slightly more than nine million out of 31.7 million eligible voters included in this phase, and that more than one million of the votes were invalid. “The one million invalid votes is a high number and shows that many voters do not understand the election system,” said Zahran, adding that “the fact that there are two different systems — the individual and list — make it difficult and complicated for many citizens to vote correctly. We noted that this scenario happened for the first time in the Senate election when more than one million votes were also reported invalid,” said Zahran.
Ibrahim also said the first round of the first stage of the election “was held under full judicial supervision, and that 56 local organisations, 14 foreign missions and three human rights councils also participated in monitoring the poll.
“The NEA received few complaints which were settled and did not affect the electoral process.” Ibrahim urged voters to perform their national duty and participate more actively in the first stage’s run-off round and in the second stage of the elections. “Please do not listen to malicious voices which are propagated by the enemies of the nation,” Ibrahim said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.