Egypt readies for second round of elections

Friday 20/11/2015
Election campaign banners in downtown Cairo, on November 19th, ahead of the second round of parliamentary elections.

Cairo - Voter turnout in the sec­ond phase of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, observers say, could be higher than the first phase as first-phase losers seek to make up for losses and winners look to maximise gains.
The second phase of the elec­tions is scheduled for November 22nd and 23rd in 13 provinces.
“Political parties are strongly in­viting voters to heavily participate in the second phase of the polls,” said Akram Badr Eddin, a political science professor at Cairo Univer­sity. “Also, the fact that candidates have had enough time for cam­paigning before the second phase of the polls will contribute to rais­ing the turnout.”
Only 26.5% of eligible voters par­ticipated in the first phase of the elections, a turnout interpreted by some observers as an indication of declining support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who implored people to vote.
About 27 million people are eligi­ble to vote in the second phase of the elections, which will be in pop­ulous provinces, including Cairo, and some of the provinces of the Nile Delta.
Political parties and independent candidates are stressing the need for voter participation.
First-phase winners, includ­ing liberal parties, three of which, namely Egyptian Liberals, Coun­try’s Future and Wafd, won 36% of the 226 seats at stake.The Sisi-backed For the Love of Egypt coali­tion won the 60 seats specified for political parties.
The Salafist al-Nour Party, the only Islamist party participating in the elections, won ten seats, while leftist candidates who ran as inde­pendents won four seats in the first phase.
Egypt’s parliamentary elections matter because — apart from be­ing the final phase in the coun­try’s transitional road map — they decide the make-up and nature of Egypt’s internal politics for five years.
There were fears before the elec­tions that al-Nour, a traditional ally of the Islamist Muslim Brother­hood, would win a large number of seats in parliament and pose real opposition to Sisi. The party, how­ever, suffered a staggering defeat.
Senior party member Salah Ab­del Maaboud blames the party’s losses on the electoral system and what he described as an “inimical” campaign in Egypt’s private media.
According to the election law, a party list that does not win an abso­lute majority of votes in a specific constituency loses elections alto­gether in the constituency.
“We received almost 30% of all votes in the first phase,” Abdel Maaboud said. “While this per­centage shows that we have a solid base of support, it could also have secured a larger number of seats for our party but for the election sys­tem.”
Al-Nour will contest the 60 seats specified for political parties in the second phase. It will also compete for 120 of the 222 seats for inde­pendent candidates.
However, political observers ex­pect the party to continue to lose seats to liberal parties and coali­tions.
“The mood of the voters is just changing,” said Youssri al-Ezbawi, who heads an elections research group at local think-tank Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “Voters have already dis­covered that alluring Islamist slo­gans can do nothing to solve their economic problems.”
A further loss by Islamists, ob­servers like Ezbawi say, can augur the end of political Islam in Egypt.
The same future, meanwhile, seems to be awaiting Egypt’s left­ists, whose elections prospects are also dim, the observers add.
The potential for none of the country’s political parties to secure an absolute majority in parliament will mean that none will be able to form any government in the next five years or pose a real challenge to Sisi, whose term as president runs to June 2018.
This is why political analysts such as Badr Eddin expect some groups with the largest number of seats in parliament to form a uni­fied bloc to affect legislative voting.
“These forces will not be able to do anything other than this [back­ing or opposing legislation inside parliament],” Badr Eddin said. “We need to know that our political is still at its formative stage, which means that the situation will be better in future elections.”