Run-offs in Egypt’s Parliamentary Race: A New First Phase?

Last week, the High Elections Committee (HEC) announced the results of the first phase of Egypt’s parliamentary elections. With only four candidates securing their seats, another 436 candidates are contesting the remaining 222 seats in a runoff round which will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. 224 of those candidates are affiliated with twelve political parties, while 212 are independent candidates. With a turnout of 26.5 percent, the first stage witnessed the anticipated defeat of the Nour Salafi party, and the unexpected rise of fledgling party, Mostaqbal Watan, or the Future of the Nation. So what can be expected in the runoff? 

Civil Party Leads

It’s safe to say that of the 224 candidates afflicted with parties, the majority of those who will secure seats will be from civil political parties. The Nour Party, the only prominent Islamist party in the race, has only twenty-five out of 160 candidates in the runoff. The party is also reeling from the assassination of its only North Sinai candidate, and has positioned itself to question the results of the elections as a whole, having filed multiple complaints of voter fraud against the leading coalition, For the Love of Egypt.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by Egypt’s tycoon Naguib Sawiris, tops the list of parties with sixty-five candidates in the runoff round, according to statements by the party. Forty-seven of the party’s candidates failed to make it past the first round.

The Mostaqbal Watan party came second with its announced figure of forty-eight candidates entering the runoff, versus forty of its candidates who failed to do so.

The Wafd Party, Egypt’s oldest liberal party, came third, saying it has thirty-five out of seventy-nine candidates in the runoff.

Former National Democratic Party (NDP) figure Akmal Qortam’ party established in 2011, the Conservatives, has the least number of candidates left in the first phase of the elections, with only three making it into the runoffs.

Yousri al-Azbawi, a researcher for Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told EgyptSource these results were expected.

“Look at the three parties on the top of the list—you will find that all of them used ‘old tools’ to gain votes of the Egyptians; which is money, social connections and media along with fielding well connected former NDP faces,” he said.

Azbawi’s comments come on the heels of one electoral list withdrawing from the elections in the wake of the first round of votes. The Call of Egypt (or Nedaa Misr), which includes seventeen political parties and youth movements, announced its decision earlier this week saying, “The electoral process did not meet the degree of integrity desired, especially since the For the Love of Egypt list presented itself, with the help of the media, as the only national list.” For the Love of Egypt, an electoral list composed of former state officials, NDP figures and media personalities, secured the sixty party based lists seats in the first phase, after competing with a total of six other electoral lists in the Upper Egypt and West Delta governorates. 

Azbawi also described the runoffs as a “full first phase,” with seats in most of the constituencies being contested once again. “The majority of constituencies are witnessing mobilization through money and social media campaigns.” He added, however, that he doesn’t anticipate a huge turnout.

The HEC, however, has decided to suspend the runoff in the four constituencies after a court invalidated the results. The total number of suspended seats comes to sixteen. Seven are located in Delta governorate of Beheira, seven in the coastal governorate of Alexandria, and five in Upper Egypt’s governorate of Beni Suef.

Significant Constituencies

One of Giza’s constituencies has been labeled a ‘celebrity constituency’ due to the high profile figures running in the race. A faceoff is taking place between the Free Egyptians Party candidate Ahmed Mortada Mansour, son of controversial lawyer Mortada Mansour, and Amr al-Shobakki, a political expert and a revolutionary figure, in the Dokki-Agouza constituency. As a result, this race in particular has gained significant media attention compared to others.

The constituency is composed of two individual seats; one of them was won by controversial media personality and independent candidate Abdel Rehim Ali in the first round, while Shobakki and Mansour are contesting the remaining seat.

In the first round, Ali led the pack with 45,949 votes, while Mansour came second with 24,692 votes, and Shobakki came third with 20,191 votes. According to Egypt’s electoral system, to win a seat in the constituency you have to get 50 percent + 1 from the whole correct votes. 

Days before the race was due to kick off once again, the candidates exchanged accusations. Mansour’s father said Shobakki’s win in the 2012 elections came as a result of Muslim Brotherhood support. Shobakki defended his 2012 victory saying that his 200,000 votes at the time were the result of the high turnout. Egypt’s 2012 parliamentary elections saw a turnout of a record 62 percent. He also accused both Mansour and Ali of exceeding the 500,000 Egyptian pound spending limit for campaigning in the first round, saying they between 3 and 4 million each.

In Alexandria, specifically in the Amriya constituency, the Nour Party is guaranteed to secure at least two seats. Three Nour Party candidates are facing one independent candidate for the constituency’s three individual seats. Rizq Ragheb Diaf Allah, a former NDP figure from Alexandria, is running against Ahmed Khalil, Ahmed Abdel Hamid, and Zaraa Menisey.

In the first round, Diaf Allah, who belongs to a prominent NDP family which always won the seat in former president Hosni Mubarak’s parliamentary elections, came first with 45 percent of the votes while Sherif, Abdel Hamid, and Menisey came second, third and fourth respectively.

In Upper Egypt’s governorate of Minya alone, ten Copts out of fifty candidates are in the runoffs, with twenty in total throughout the governorates taking part in the first phase. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, only sevenCopts secured seats in the elections, and while it remains to be seen how the vote will turn out, the success of Coptic candidates in a governorate often witness to sectarian violence is unprecedented. Most significantly, the two candidates competing for a seat in Minya’s Bandr Malawi constituency are both Coptic—Sherif Diab belongs to the Free Egyptians Party while Rami Botros is an independent candidate. In three other constituencies—Abu Qurqus, Minya City, and Beni Mazar and Matay—Coptic candidates topped lists with the most votes each.

Women also had a surprise showing in Giza’s Imbaba constituency, formerly known as an Islamist stronghold. A woman topped the eight candidates going into the runoff, with 32 percent of the votes, while women also made it into third and seventh place out of eight candidates entering the runoff. Among the eight candidates are also two Copts.  

As the vote begins in Egypt, preliminary reports indicate yet another low turnout, as was seen in the first round, both with voters abroad and in Egypt. Results will be announced on October 29, with another two days for appeals, and the final HEC ruling issued on October 30. In early November, Egypt starts the process all over again in East Delta and Cairo and Middle Delta governorates. 

Omar Halawa is based in Cairo and is a senior political reporter for Ahram Online.

Image: Photo: A voter casts his vote at a polling station during the run-off to the first round of parliamentary election in Imbaba, Giza governorate, Egypt, October 27, 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)