Alexandria's runoff witnesses electoral violations

Produced by Mohamed Fattah.

A total of 14 candidates competed for the remaining seven seats in yesterday's run-off round in Alexandria. The first round, held on Sunday, 28th November brought the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) a majority of 17 seats out of 24 in the coastal city.

Polling stations opened smoothly at 8 am. Unlike the first round, representatives of the candidates were not barred and all campaigners were allowed to operate freely, although canvassing is illegal on election day.

Independent election monitors had a hard time with the authorities. Clear directives were given to polling stations to deny the entry of monitors, asserts Mohamed Sabry, an observer at the Independent Committee for Election Observation.

"I was trying to enter Ras El-Teen school for girls (used as a polling station) when I was stopped by a police chief who said he didn’t have orders to allow me in," he alleges. Sabry and his colleagues remained outside the polling stations for the rest of the day, trying to document voter turnout and any visible irregularities.

The polls witnessed very low turnout due to the opposition's boycott of the runoff round citing "massive fraud".

The remaining seven seats reside are within the four main constituencies of Gomrok, Karmouz, Montaza, and Ghorbal.

Despite the calls to boycott by the opposition, the leftist Tagammu party broke the consensus, fielding the worker’s candidate Abdel Fattah Mohamed in Montaza.

NDP everywhere

In the four constituencies, the National Democratic Party had at least one runner. In Ghorbal, two NDP candidates were competing for the same regular seat. In Gomrok, Abu Heif contended for the regular seat while Nashed Al-Malki fought for the worker’s seat. Ali Seif confidently vied for the seat in Montaza, after winning more than 15,000 votes in the first round.

A de facto empty seat was left in Karmouz for NDP Christian candidate Sherif Boktor , after the Muslim Brotherhood withdrew Mahmoud Atiya who had 5,056 votes compared to 2,507 for Boktor. The same worker’s seat was contested by the NDP’s Fawaz Abdel Halim against Independent runner, Hamada Mansour.

Electoral irregularities

The absence of the opposition in the run-off, apart from the exceptionally calm Montaza, revealed that electoral irregularities are more of a typical tactic than a violation against the opposition. Massive directed-voting and vote-buying were part of the scene. Minor clashes followed as some voters complained about broken agreements by candidates who had promised them money for votes.

A large number of parked buses outside most polling stations had nothing to do with any day-trip to this beautiful coastal city. These buses, marked by posters of candidates, were intended to deliver scores of voters to take part in more than one ballot at several different polling stations.

While the first round witnessed direct negative interference by the security forces against opposition candidates, this round had security which maintained fairness but had a policy of non-intervention, even against illegal campaigning and turned a blind eye to vote-buying and systematic food donation.

A crisis for the ruling party

Political analysts nevertheless view this as a crisis for the ruling party. "No parliament in the world is dominated by a single party," said Abdel Fattah Mady, a professor of political science at Alexandria University. He agreed with other analysts in praising "the good timing of the opposition’s withdrawal from the run-off."

"Pulling out of the elections is a normal act by a movement which is unable to observe any fairness or integrity in the electoral process," said Mady.

"This parliament is worse than the one of 2005. The amount of administrative court rulings against elections aims at its legitimacy. This scene is neither compatible to Egypt's rank in the region nor what we would actually want it to be in the future."