Saturday, February 21, 2015

Egypt's Party Candidates Struggle to Meet ‎Parliamentary Registration Deadline
Egypt's political parties are in a scramble to complete ‎their lists of parliamentary candidates ahead of the ‎registration deadline Thursday

Gamal Essam El-Din
Wednesday 18 Feb 2015

Leading officials of Egypt's political parties have said they are ‎doing their best to finalise the registration papers of ‎their candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. ‎‎On Sunday, the Higher Elections Committee (HEC) ‎extended the window for parliamentary candidate ‎registration by two days — from 2pm Tuesday, 17 ‎February, to 7pm Thursday, 19 February.‎

Some had high hopes that the registration window ‎would remain open beyond Thursday so that party-‎based candidates could have more time to submit their ‎registration papers.‎

But in a statement to reporters on Wednesday, HEC ‎spokesperson Omar Marawan said "The registration ‎deadline will not be extended beyond Thursday."‎

Marawan indicated that "The registration committees ‎will remain working Friday to revise the papers and ‎give a final tally for independent and party-based ‎candidates."‎

Marawan attributed the two-day extension, from 17 to ‎‎19 February, to bad weather "and the necessity of ‎allowing political parties greater time to complete their ‎lists of candidates and successfully submit the required ‎registration papers."‎

A lot of candidates have complained of rigorous and ‎expensive medical check-ups. The Ministry of Health ‎‎and HEC said the medical tests are a necessity to ‎ensure that Egypt's new parliamentary deputies are free ‎from physical, mental and psychological ailments. ‎‎"Presidential candidates underwent these tests last ‎May, and the same should apply to parliamentary ‎nominees this month," said Marawan. ‎

Health ministry statistics show that more than 200 prospective ‎candidates tested positive to drug intake and ‎as a result the HEC rejected their registration papers.‎

Marawan said the two-day extension of the registration ‎deadline forced the HEC to slightly change the election ‎timetable. "The HEC now expects a complete list of ‎candidates to be available by 22 February, instead of 20 ‎February," said Marawan, indicating that "The full ‎names of candidates will be published by two national ‎newspapers next week."‎

Marawan also indicated that campaigning in the first ‎round of the polls, due to begin on 21-22 March, will run ‎between 28 February and 20 March, instead of 26 ‎February and 20 March.‎

Marawan said the second round of the poll will be held ‎on 26-27 April. "In case of a run-off, it will be held on 6-7 ‎May," said Marawan, adding that "The final results of the ‎two-round polls will be announced on 11-12 May." "The ‎successful candidates will be able to gain complete ‎parliamentary membership between 13 May and 11 ‎June," said Marawan.‎

The above dates mean that Egypt's new parliament — or ‎House of Representatives — will be able to convene ‎its first session only in the second half of June, or just ‎few days before the holy fasting month of Ramadan ‎begins on 18 June.‎

In general, a cloud of uncertainty still looms over Egypt's up‎coming parliamentary elections. Political experts cite ‎legal and security concerns.‎

Gamal Zahran, a political science professor, told ‎Ahram Online that a number of lawsuits have been ‎filed with the administrative courts in recent ‎weeks, all contesting the constitutionality of laws ‎regulating the exercise of political rights, the House of ‎Representatives and the asignation of electoral districts. "Some of ‎these lawsuits were referred to the High Constitutional ‎Court (HCC) for a final judgment," said Zahran.‎

Marawan told reporters that the abovementioned laws were ‎thoroughly revised by the State Council's Department of ‎Fatwas and Legislation. "The department concluded ‎last December that these three laws do not contravene ‎the constitution," said Marawan.‎

For his part, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab told ‎reporters Monday — hours after Egypt mounted ‎airstrikes against the Islamic State in Libya in ‎retaliation for the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians — ‎that the polls would not be postponed and would ‎be held in a climate of integrity. "Although these ‎terrorist attacks aim to delay the election process, it will ‎go forward anyway," Mahlab said.‎

Marawan argued Tuesday that although the door of ‎registration opened 11 days ago, most party-based ‎candidates have not been able to register.‎

According to Marawan, HEC statistics show that "of the ‎‎5,053 who had successfully registered by 17 February, ‎‎3,514 were hoping to stand as independents and only ‎‎1,539 on party lists." "Most of those who have ‎registered range between 41 and 50 years, while the ‎number of female candidates has so far reached 212," ‎said Marawan.‎

Marawan said he expects the total number of candidates ‎to dramatically rise in the final two days of registration ‎‎— on Wednesday and Thursday. "This is based on the fact ‎that more than 8,000 had already applied to undergo ‎the required medical tests, and with the two-day ‎extension we expect the number will greatly increase," ‎said Marwan.‎

The low number of party-based candidates was largely ‎due to the fact that most secular parties are still ‎debating the possibility of compiling a unified list.‎

The two major electoral coalitions of "The Egyptian ‎Wafd" and "For Love of Egypt" said their candidates ‎will submit papers on Wednesday and Thursday. Sameh ‎Seif Al-Yazal, a former intelligence officer and chairman ‎of Al-Gomhouria Centre for Political and Strategic ‎Studies (GCPSS), said "The submission of papers comes ‎late because consultations between 'For Love of ‎Egypt' and Al-Wafd took a long time."‎

According to Al-Yazal, "The 'For Love of Egypt' lists ‎will include 13 Wafdists." "On top of these are two ‎former Wafdist MPs: Mohamed Abdel-Alim in the Nile ‎delta governorate of Kafr Al-Sheikh, and Tarek Sabaq in ‎Cairo," said Al-Yazal, adding that "Other Wafdists ‎include Osama Heikal, a former information minister ‎and currently chairman of the Egyptian Media ‎Production City; Taher Abu Zeid, a former minister of ‎sports; Akmal Qortam, oil business tycoon and chairman ‎of the Conservative Party; and Fadia Salem, a female ‎member in the liberal Reform and Development Party ‎and a former Shura Council MP.‎

Al-Yazal indicated that "The 'For Love of Egypt' list ‎also includes Mohamed Al-Orabi, a former foreign ‎affairs minister; Ahmed Said, the former chairman of ‎the Free Egyptians Party; Lamis Gaber, a political writer ‎and wife of famous movie actor Yehia Al-Fakharani; ‎Mahmoud Badr, coordinator of the Tamarod Mmovement; and Tarek Al-Khouli, a former spokesperson ‎for the revolutionary April 6 Movement.‎

Al-Yazal said the list also includes a number of ‎prominent businessmen, such as automobile magnate ‎Wagih Abaza, electric cables tycoon Mohamed Al-‎Sewedy, and Alexandria's high-profile industrialist and ‎chairman of Semouha Sporting Club Mohamed Farag ‎Amer.‎

The "For Love of Egypt" list also comprises a large number of ‎Coptic candidates, foremost among them Emad Gad, an ‎Al-Ahram political analyst and an official with the Free ‎Egyptians Party.‎

Several political analysts believe that the "For Love of ‎Egypt" list enjoys the backing of the government and ‎President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, though both have ‎repeatedly stressed that they stand neutral.‎

Most of the names on the "For Love of Egypt" list were ‎originally put on a list that was prepared by former ‎Mubarak-era Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri. "But as ‎El-Ganzouri's list faced attacks from most political ‎parties, not to mention that it included a lot of former ‎Hosni Mubarak regime symbols, President El-Sisi ‎intervened to take it into a different direction," said ‎Zahran, adding that "Its name changed from the ‎National List to the 'For Love of Egypt' list, while ‎most of the names that belonged in one way or ‎another to the Mubarak regime were dismissed in favour ‎of popular candidates from Al-Wafd Party and other ‎forces."‎

A lot of Mubarak regime remnants are allied with ‎the so-called "Egyptian Front" coalition. Spokesperson ‎Qadri Abu Hussein told Ahram Online that 90 per ‎cent of the front's allied independent candidates have ‎already registered. "As for the lists of our party-based ‎candidates, these will be submitted on Wednesday or ‎Thursday," said Hussein.‎

Hussein indicated that topping the list of the front's ‎candidates are Ahmed Zaki Badr, a former education ‎minister; Amr Ezzat Salama, a former higher education ‎minister; and Yehia Qadri, chairman of the Egyptian ‎National Movement, a political party that was founded ‎by former Mubarak-era prime minister and 2012 ‎presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq.‎

A review of the list shows that it also includes a large ‎number of Mubarak's former ruling National ‎Democratic Party (NDP) MPs in the Nile Delta and Upper ‎Egypt governorates.‎

In Islamist terms, the ultraconservative Salafist Al-Nour Party said its party-based candidates aiming to run in ‎the East Delta district successfully registered ‎Monday. "This district includes 15 seats in three ‎governorates (Al-Beheira, Alexandria and Matrouh) and ‎competition there is reserved to party-based ‎candidates," said Talaat Marouk, a leading Nour official.‎

Competition for party-based seats will be confined to ‎four districts with 120 seats: two with 45 seats each and ‎two with 15 seats each. The two districts with 45 seats ‎each include Cairo, and East and South Delta (six ‎governorates); and North, Middle and South Upper ‎Egypt (11 governorates). The other two districts with 15 ‎seats each include East Delta (seven governorates), and ‎West Delta (three governorates).‎

Egypt's new parliament will comprise 567 MPs, with 420 ‎independents and 120 party-based deputies. As many ‎as 27 MPs will be appointed by the president.‎

Although the liberal Wafd Party decided in a meeting ‎Saturday that it would not boycott the polls, its ‎candidates have so far not been able to register. Bahaa ‎Abu-Shoqa, Al-Wafd's secretary-general, said "The ‎complete lists of the party's candidates, being revised by ‎a legal committee, will be submitted on Thursday."‎

Officials of another electoral list, under the banner of ‎‎"The Reawakening of Egypt," also said they will register ‎Thursday. The list, being prepared by opposition ‎political activist Abdel-Gelil Mostafa, includes ‎candidates affiliated with liberal and leftist ‎revolutionary forces.‎

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