Who is who in Egypt’s parliament polls
Cairo - Millions of Egyptians are expected to head to the polls on October 18th and 19th for Phase I of parliamentary elections to decide the make-up of what is billed as their country’s “most important” legislature.
The vote is the third and final move on Egypt’s transitional road map, which was approved by political forces, religious institutions and the military upon the overthrow of Islamist president Muhammad Morsi in July 2013.
More than 105 liberal, leftist, secular and Salafist parties will be competing for the 120 seats specified for party lists in both phases of the polls. Independent candidates will be contesting 448 seats in the 600- seat legislature. The president is to appoint the remaining 32 members of parliament.
“The polls are important because the next parliament will have to turn the articles of the 2014 Constitution into laws,” activist Shahenda Meqlid said. She called the next parliament the “most important” in Egyptian history.
“It is so because it will also partner with the government in ruling this country,” she noted.
Some 5,424 independent candidates have filed to run in 226 constituencies in both phases. That includes 2,573 candidates who will contest 226 seats in Phase I. Political parties and political party coalitions have submitted six lists, with a total of 720 candidates, to run for 120 seats specified for them.
Phase II of the polls is scheduled for Egypt’s other 13 provinces on November 22nd and 23rd. The remaining 2,851 candidates will contest the other 222 seats.
About 50 million Egyptians have the right to vote in both phases, according to the independent Elections Commission.
The parliament bloc with the largest number of seats has the right to form the government. It also has the right to withdraw confidence from the president, according to the constitution.
Private media allied with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have been warning voters against selecting the “wrong” representatives for parliament. By this, it is probably referring to candidates opposed to Sisi and who may impede his government.
This group and the government shudder at the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood coming back to power through parliament. This is, however, unrealistic, given that almost all Brotherhood leaders and members are either in jail or in hiding.
According to leftist politician Hussein Abdel-Razik, the next parliament will be mainly made up of independent candidates backing Sisi. “I do not think the Brotherhood have a strong chance to be present in this parliament,” he said.
Despite this, Abdel-Razik said he expected al-Nour — the largest Salafist party — to win enough seats that will enable it to affect decision-making.
Al-Nour has submitted one of six party and coalition lists contesting the 120 seats specified for political parties. The political arm of the Salafist Call, which lobbies for an application of Islamic law, al-Nour has also fielded hundreds of candidates as independents to contest the 448 seats specified for independents.
The party, according to senior member Shabaan Abdel Aleem, aims to win 25% of the seats of parliament to act as a balancing power in the legislature.
The party is, however, viewed with suspicion, partly because of its strict Islamist ideology and partly because it used to be allied with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Competing against al-Nour for the 120 seats are five party coalition lists, including the “For the Love of Egypt” list, which is made up of ten political parties, among them al- Wafd, the oldest liberal party, and Egyptian Liberals, the largest liberal party.
The “For the Love of Egypt” list contains three former ministers, retired army generals and members of the ruling party of former autocratic president Hosni Mubarak. List spokesmen say they want to win a majority of seats in the next parliament and offer public backing for Sisi.
There are also rumours that this is the list most preferred by Sisi himself, although the president said previously that he is backing no one.
Another party list includes the National Front list, which is formed by about 50 political parties, including the Patriotic Movement Party of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq.
The Republican Coalition list is formed by a group of secular and liberal parties that call for separating religion from politics, fighting discrimination and ushering in an economic system that protects all social classes. The coalition says if it wins enough seats in parliament, it will lobby for upgrading Egypt’s health care system, creating jobs and improving education.
The Current of Independence coalition, which is made by 30 marginal secular and leftist political parties, backs Sisi and speaks loudly against political Islam.
Analysts say that the majority of seats are specified for independent candidates means that no party will have enough seats in parliament to form the next government.
“This is a huge problem in fact,” Samir Ghattas, the head of local think-tank Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies, said. “We will end up having a fragmented parliamentary structure incapable of either passing laws or forming a government.”
The more than 5,000 independent candidates include fresh-faced politicians, Islamists affiliated with some of the Salafist parties and members of Mubarak’s party.
Some of Mubarak’s formerly ruling National Democratic Party members are running as part of the party lists. A large number of the party’s members are registered as independents.
Ghattas said he expects Mubarak’s loyalists to dominate as much as 50% of the seats of parliament.
“They [Mubarak’s party members] are competing over all parliament seats,” he said. “I think they will be present in the next parliament and very strongly.”