United we stand
The countdown has begun for the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place next month, possibly on 25 February. The consensus is that the battle over the identity of the Egyptian
State, whether it should be secular or Islamist, has not been settled by the voting in of the Islamist constitution. The upcoming parliamentary elections are set to determine who will have the upper hand in Egypt; who will issue the laws and decisions that will shape the new face of Egypt? Will it be the Islamists who are already in power, or the liberals who are in the opposition?
The challenge before the secular political forces is how to rally voters, the majority of whom refrained from voting in the recent referendum on the constitution. The political struggle with the Islamists has taught the seculars that fragmentation of the vote was bound to turn them into losers, so they have resorted to allying themselves into a coalition, the National Salvation Front (NSF). The Islamists, for their part, are also busy forming coalitions of their various movements to garner what they hope would be an overwhelming majority.
The elections of the House of Representatives—formerly the People’s Assembly (PA)—will run according to new legislation passed earlier this month by the Shura Council (the Senate). The new legislation is an amendment to that which governed the exercise of political rights and the election of the PA, enacted in 1956 and 1972 respectively. The new law includes some significant changes, one of which revokes the president’s right to appoint 10 members to the House of Representatives, but retains the 50 per cent quota of seats for labourers and farmers. According to the new law, two thirds of the seats will be elected according to a party-based list system, and one third by individual candidacy. Individual candidates will have the right to form lists. Each party-based list must, furthermore, include at least one female candidate on the first half of the list. According to the House of Representatives law, leaders of the now defunct National Democratic Party, cannot present themselves as candidates to the House of Representatives elections for a period of 10 years. The new law also stipulates that the vote count must be made inside the polling stations, and must be overseen by rights groups and the media.
In an attempt to secure the largest possible number of seats the NSF, which includes some 12 parties and countless political movements, is in the process of unifying the ranks of the seculars in order to run for the upcoming parliamentary elections on one list. It is also busy coordinating between the contenders for the individual seats.
The NSF elections committee has asked the parties operating under its umbrella to present their candidate lists, in order to conduct an assessment of the best possible candidates to field. The committee decided that candidates must preferably have prior electoral experience, whether through having contended other elections before, or as former MPs. Candidates must also be of good repute in their constituencies.
According to former presidential contender Amr Moussa, founder of al-Mu’tamar Party, a NSF leader, and former Arab League Chief, it has been decided that the NSF will contest the elections with one party list for each constituency, or with two lists in the more complex constituencies. Mr Moussa explained that the NSF, which is self-funding, has asked candidates to finance their own campaigns. “We can only offer moral and public support to the candidates,” he said.
Secretary-General of Mu’tamar party Ahmed Fawzy stressed that the NSF has decided to give women, Copts and youth priority positions on its candidate lists, so that they would garner good representation in case the front wins.
The 11 conditions
The NSF has specified 11 conditions to ensure the integrity of the polling. These include full judicial supervision, as well as provisions to ensure that the rampant violations which used to take place during previous elections and which cast shadows over the results will be banned. The provisions include conducting the elections over two consecutive days; counting the votes and announcing the winners inside the polling stations, in presence of candidates’ representatives as well as representatives of rights organisations and the media; ensuring that local and foreign rights organisations and elections monitors are permitted to monitor the elections; criminalising the exploitation of mosques for electoral campaigning and the mixing of religion with politics. But the NSF stopped short of declaring what action it would take in case these conditions are not implemented.
The Muslim Brotherhood
And even though Amr Khaled is a renowned Muslim telepreacher, the party he founded and which he heads, the Misr (Egypt) Party is non-Islamist. Mr Khaled said that his party is in the process of interviewing young calibres all over Egypt in order to decide on contenders for the upcoming elections. Khaled explained that unlike other political parties, his party believes that the Egyptian identity is the only guarantee for renaissance, evolution, and development.
Simultaneously, the ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, announced that it is contesting the upcoming elections within a coalition with other political forces. FJP sources confirmed that the FJP is forming a coalition with the Wassat and Hadara parties, both with Islamic inclinations. Both these parties are already in negotiation with al-Watan al-Hurr Salafi coalition to join ranks.
While Diaa Mughazi and Mohamed al-Masry, members in the FJP Minya and Sohag bureaux respectively called on forming a coalition with the Jamaa al-Islamiya; Ussama Soliman and Nagy Mikhail of the FJP Beheira bureau advised the formation of national coalitions in order to placate the conflict with the opposition. It was thus decided that bureaux in the various governorates would each prepare a report of all plausible coalitions on the local level.
The MB bureau recently launched the “the productive families” campaign, in order to boost MB popularity and rally for the FJP. The campaign, which operates with some ten NGOs aims at playing a tangible, positive social role by offering family members vocational training that would allow them to increase their income.
When it comes to Salafis
The Salafi stream is contending the upcoming elections with two lists. The first is the al-Watan al-Hurr coalition, which includes among other Islamist parties al-Bina’ wal-Tanmiya, the political arm of the Jamaa al-Islamiya. The second belongs to al-Nour party which is contending the elections on its own, in coordination with the FJP, Shaaban Abdel-Alim of al-Nour Party said.
Ahmed Badie, of al-Watan Islamist Party which is a member in the al-Watan al-Hurr coalition said that negotiations are ongoing with the al-Wassat and al-Hadara Islamic parties to persuade them to join the coalition.
According to Khaled Sherif, media consultant of al-Bina’ wal-Tanmiya, the party does not object on the inclusion of Copts or liberals on its lists as long as they are not hostile to the Islamist agenda and the implementation of sharia. The Watan al-Hurr coalition, he said, is targeting 60 per cent of the parliamentary seats.
The scene is still open for surprises, since coalition ranks are liable to changes until the last minute. New coalitions may form at any point, and parties may decide to join or leave existing coalitions.
20 January 2013