(Image: Ahram Online)
Ahram-Online - CAIRO: Competition for seats in Egypt’s parliament with 6,000 candidates – independent and on party lists – starts Saturday, when doors open for foreign-based Egyptians to cast ballots in the first stage of the elections marking the crucial last step of a roadmap that has lasted for over two years.
The roadmap, which was backed by most political forces and state institutions including the army, ended the rule of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and dismantled the Islamist-dominated Shura Council (parliament's upper house and only house operating back then) immediately on 3 July, 2013.
The next year, it instigated amendments to the 2012 constitution (drafted mainly by Islamist figures) and presidential elections that Egypt’s incumbent leader Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi won.
The 2014 constitution has granted parliament greater powers, turning Egypt from an absolute presidential system into a mixed presidential-parliamentary system. Articles from 101 to 138 give parliament the power to revise all laws enacted since Morsi's ouster – it can revise, reject, or ratify them – as well as to oversee the executive branch and endorse the annual state budget.
The interim authorities that followed Morsi’s ouster and the succeeding El-Sisi administration passed a large amount of legislation, some of which stirred criticisms, including the Protest Law that stipulates dissidents are allowed to stage protest only if approved in advance by the police.
The law has meant that thousands of protestors have been jailed over the past couple of years. Other laws related to fighting terrorism and corruption, as well as the Civil Service Law, have also been viewed as controversial.
Despite its authority, observers widely expect the coming parliament to endorse the laws enacted following Morsi’s ouster, making the legislation constitutional. Their speculation is fueled mainly by the notion that a vast majority of candidates, including figures from the Hosni Mubarak regime and his National Democratic Party, are supporting El-Sisi and his regime.
One of the prominent coalitions is For the Love of Egypt, which is widely believed to be supported by El-Sisi, although he has repeatedly denied that he stands behind a certain faction. For the Love of Egypt held a series of public rallies in a number of towns and cities across Upper Egypt, with large posters of El-Sisi conspicuously displayed.
The public figures on the For the Love of Egypt list include Sameh Saif Al-Yazel, a former intelligence officer and a security expert, Mustafa Bakry, a pro-Sisi journalist and former parliamentarian, Mohamed Farag Amer and Mohamed Zaki El-Sewidi, former NDP parliamentarians and businessmen, as well as Taher Abu Zeid, a popular 1980s footballer and former sports minister.
The Call of Egypt, formed in December 2014, includes 17 political parties and young revolutionary movements. Led by activist Tarek Zidan, the coalition said it aims to secure the goals of the "two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June" and is also supporting El-Sisi. Zidan said the alliance will join other forces to stand as a bulwark against Islamist factions led by the ultraconservative Nour Party.
Similar to For the Love of Egypt and The Call of Egypt, The Independent National Re-awakening Bloc is also supportive of El-Sisi. Founded in 2014 by Sheikh Mohamed Abdallah Al-Aswany, the bloc primarily calls for economic and social development in Upper Egypt. He says the bloc intends to cooperate with Al-Sisi in safeguarding Egypt's southern and western borders with Sudan and Libya.
The bloc includes social and religious figures from the Sunni Islam institution Al-Azhar, and representatives from the Sufi movement, the Egyptian Coptic Church, in addition to women, handicapped and young people, all from Upper Egypt.
The three electoral coalitions – For the Love of Egypt, The Call of Egypt and Independent National Re-Awakening Bloc – are competing for the 45-seat Upper Egypt constituency, fielding a total of 135 candidates or 45 candidates each.
A number of independent candidates are also believed to be backing the regime, including Ahmed Mortada Mansour, son of lawyer Mortada Mansour, who is a staunch supporter of El-Sisi.
TV presenter Abdel-Rehim Ali, mostly known for attempting to tarnish the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak by playing leaked recorded phone calls of activists on air, is another example.
286 seats in first stage
Egypt's new parliament will comprise of 596 MPs, with 448 independents and 120 party-based deputies. Twenty-eight MPs will be appointed by El-Sisi, who is supported by significant electoral coalitions. A total of 286 seats will be up for competition in the first stage, whose voting will last for three days, with 226 seats for independents and 60 seats for party-based lists.
Competition for 60 party-based seats in the first stage will be held in two constituencies: the West Nile Delta and Upper Egypt North, Middle and South.
The West Nile Delta includes three governorates – Alexandria, Beheira and Matrouh – and will return 15 MPs. North, Middle and South Upper Egypt includes eleven governorates – Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assuit, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan and the Red Sea – and will return 45 MPs as follows: Giza (11), Fayoum (4), Beni Suef (3), Minya (6), Assiut (5), New Valley (1), Sohag (6), Qena (4), Luxor (2), Aswan (2), and the Red Sea (1).
The West Delta constituency, which includes three governorates, will elect 15 MPs. They will be divided as follows: Alexandria (7), Beheira (7), and Matrouh (1).
The 226 independents will be elected from 103 constituencies.
The breakdown of the 226 independent seats will go as follows: Giza (37), Fayoum (15), Beni Suef (14), Minya (25), Assiut (20), New Valley (4), Sohag (22), Qena (15), Luxor (6), Aswan (8), the Red Sea (4), Beheira (27), Alexandria (25), and Matrouh (4).
Egyptians abroad will kick off voting in the elections’ first stage on Saturday and will also be able to cast votes on Sunday. Constituents in Egypt will go to the polling stations on Sunday and Monday.
The initial results of the first stage will be announced on 20 October. Unsuccessful candidates can file appeals against the results for two days, or between 20 and 21 October. The Higher Election Committee (HEC) should give a final say on these appeals on 21 October.
The final results of the first stage will be announced on 29 October. Unsuccessful candidates in the first stage run-off round will be allowed to file appeals against the results on 29-30 October. The HEC should give a final say on these appeals on 30 October.
The second round starts for Egyptians abroad on 21-22 November, while voters in Egypt will go to the polls on 22-23 November.