Higher voter turnout in second phase of Egyptian elections

Friday 27/11/2015
Election officials count ballots

CAIRO - A coalition of liberal par­ties backing Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won the 60 seats specified for politi­cal parties in the second phase of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, the country’s independent elec­tions commission said.
This put the Sisi-backing For the Love of Egypt coalition in con­trol of the 120 parliamentary seats specified for political parties in the two phases of the elections.
Independent candidates also won nine seats, the commission said during a press conference late November 25th. A runoff for the remaining 213 seats of the second phase was set for December 1st and 2nd, with 426 independent candi­dates in contention.
The commission said overall voter turnout in the second phase of the elections was 29.8%, which is higher than the 26% of the first phase. Analysts attribute the high­er turnout to a change in campaign tactics and a feeling of insecurity following terrorist attacks in Paris.
“Parliamentary hopefuls were more shrewd in campaigning, which convinced more people to go to polling stations during the two days of the elections,” said Youssri al-Ezbawi, a researcher from think-tank Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “Voters also had the feeling that their country was in danger, especially after the terrorist attacks in Paris.”
Egypt’s parliamentary elections saw a total of 2,893 independent candidates contested 222 parlia­mentary seats during the second phase of the elections. Political parties and coalitions were allotted 60 seats.
The country’s orthodox Islam­ists, represented by the Salafist al- Nour Party, the only Islamist party participating in the vote, won ten seats in the first phase of the elec­tions. The party was hoping to win at least 75 seats in the second phase.
Nevertheless, they also expect the next parliament to be bereft of party politics as it shows progress when it comes to the representa­tion of classes that were previously marginalised, including Egyptian women.
“The vast majority of legislators will be independent, while politi­cal parties will have 120 seats only,” said Mustafa Elwi Saif, a political science professor at Cairo Univer­sity. “This can partly weaken our country’s political parties but the good thing is that there will not be less than 80 female legislators.”
Egypt’s election law sets aside 56 of the 120 seats won by political parties for women. This will proba­bly be the highest female represen­tation in the Egyptian parliament.
The law also allows Sisi to ap­point 5% of the 568 members of parliament. Some people expect Sisi to give a portion of that 5% to women.
Egypt has striven to complete its transitional road map, defy­ing political turmoil and terrorist attacks.
During the second phase of the parliamentary elections, long lines of voters formed outside polling stations in North Sinai province, where terrorist attacks are most concentrated.
The queues were in apparent de­fiance of the Islamic State (ISIS), which repeatedly said it seeks to turn the peninsula, which shares borders with Israel and the Pales­tinian Gaza Strip, into an Islamic caliphate.
Ezbawi said the formation of the parliament will contribute to Egypt’s stability and ability to sign agreements with international part­ners.
“Some agreements cannot go into force if they are not approved by parliament,” he said. “The pres­ence of parliament also makes a country’s political system more credible.”