|Friday, November 11,2005 00:00|
Yesterday’s elections were the first of three stages (the second and third, starting on 20 November and ending on 7 December, will include the remaining 18 governorates.). This is only the second time in the nation’s 139-year-old parliamentary history that elections are being held over three stages, ostensibly in order to make it more feasible for judges to supervise the overall election process.
This stage, said Amr Hashem Rabie, a political analyst with Al-Ahram’s Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, includes the elections’ three most important governorates: Cairo; Giza; and Al-Menoufiya. "These three governorates feature the most prominent candidates from the National Democratic Party (NDP), as well as the other political parties and the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood," Rabie said. How the ruling NDP does in this stage, he said, could determine how the party will do in later stages. And since the NDP candidates are from the party’s new and old guards, Rabie said, "once we see which camp gets the most seats, we’ll be able to determine whether the next parliament will be forceful, or toothless as usual."
The NDP is fielding 164 candidates in this stage. The largest opposition party, the Wafd, is fronting 61 contenders. The leftist Tagammu and Nasserist parties are fielding 19 and six candidates respectively. The Wafd, Tagammu and Nasserist parties are members of a coalition that was formed early last month, expressly to stand as a united bloc against the NDP. Called the National Front for Change (NFC), the coalition includes eight other political movements fielding an additional 10 candidates in this stage.
Ayman Nour’s Ghad Party, meanwhile, is fielding some 40 candidates. Fifty candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood are also running, as are around 30 candidates from 11 small parties. All in all, there are some 385 candidates belonging to political parties and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The vast majority of candidates, around 1,250, are independents, including more than 500 members of the NDP who are running on their own because the ruling party decided not to nominate them.
Fourty-three women and 48 Copts are running. During this first stage, judges will be supervising 3,161 principal and 10,644 auxiliary polling stations.
The Cairo races promise to be especially intriguing, with 528 candidates competing for 50 seats. In many constituencies voters were choosing between a mosaic of candidates -- many of them prominent -- from a variety of parties: the NDP, the NFC, the Ghad, and the Muslim Brotherhood, not to mention independents, most of whom were members of the NDP excluded from the official ruling party list.
In Cairo, the NDP fielded 50 candidates, while the NFC fronted around 30 (22, five, two, and two from the Wafd, Tagammu, and Nasserist parties, and the other political movements, respectively). The Muslim Brotherhood fielded around 15 candidates in Cairo.
The NDP’s list of candidates include some very significant names, such as Parliamentary Speaker Fathi Sorour (Sayeda Zeinab), Chief of Presidential Staff Zakaria Azmi (Zeitoun), and three cabinet ministers -- Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali (Maahad Fanni), Housing Minister Ibrahim Soliman (Gamaliyya), and Military Production Minister Sayed Mashaal (Helwan). The NDP list also features the chairmen of five of the outgoing assembly’s committees: Education Committee Chairman Hossam Badrawi in Qasr Al-Nil; Culture Committee Chairwoman Fayeda Kamel in Al-Khalifa; Complaints Committee Chairman Mohamed Guweily in Shubra; Health Committee Chairman Hamdi El-Sayed in Nozha; and Manpower Committee Chairman Abdel-Aziz Mostafa in Qasr Al-Nil. A number of controversial business tycoons are also on the ruling party’s list. In addition to Badrawi, there’s Hani Sorour, chairman of the 10 Ramadan investors’ association, in Al-Daher, Mostafa El-Sallab in Nasr City, Mohamed Morshidi in Maadi, Mamdouh Thabet Mekki in Al-Manyal, and Talaat Al-Qawwas in Abdeen.
Ghali’s strongest competitor for the Maahad Fanni seat is Ghad Party candidate Medhat Abdel-Hadi, while in Shubra, Mona Makram Ebeid, a prominent Coptic figure and American University in Cairo political science professor, will be a formidable foe for both the NDP’s Guweily as well as the independent candidate Fadi El-Habashi, a former senior state security officer.
Downtown Cairo’s seven constituencies -- El-Daher, Bab El-Shariya, Gamaliyya, El-Darb El-Ahmar, Abdeen, Boulaq Abul-Ila, and Qasr El-Nil -- were also controversial. In Bab El-Shariya, Ghad Party chairman Ayman Nour is up against the NDP’s Yehia Wahdan, a former state security police officer. All eyes are on Nour after he placed second in this year’s presidential elections. In Qasr El-Nil, NDP candidate Badrawi, an associate of Gamal Mubarak, is up against Hisham Mostafa Khalil, the son of a former prime minister, as well as the Wafd’s Fathi Amer and the Brotherhood’s Gamal Abdel-Salam.
In El-Wayli, top Wafd Party candidate, businessman Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, is battling the NDP’s Sherine Ahmed Fouad. In the West Cairo constituency of El-Manyal, NDP business tycoon Mamdouh Thabet Mekki ran against the Wafd’s Said Fadali, the NFC’s Magdi Hussein and the Ghad’s Ahmed Hathout.
South Cairo’s six constituencies -- El-Sayeda Zeinab, El-Khalifa, Old Cairo, Maadi, Helwan and El-Tibin -- all feature significant races. While parliamentary speaker Sorour and Mashaal may be having an easy time of it in Sayeda Zeinab and Helwan respectively, the Maadi and El-Tibin contests feature much more stringent competition. In Maadi, multi-millionaire NDP candidate Morshidi faces two strong rivals in oil multi-millionaire Aqmal Qortam and the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mansour. In El-Tibin, NDP candidate Nabil El-Gabry, chairman of the National Cement Company, is up against Mustafa Bakri, editor of the independent weekly Al-Osbou.
The fiercest battle of all, though, will be in Nasr City, where the NDP’s El-Sallab faced off against the independent construction magnate Fawzi El-Sayed, Basel El-Haywan from the Ghad Party, Makarem El-Deery from the Brotherhood, Mostafa El-Dessouki from the Wafd Party, and Ali Abul-Naga from Shurafaa Al-Ghad.
In Giza, 319 candidates are competing for 28 seats. Twenty-eight of these candidates are from the NDP, while 20 are from the NFC. The Brotherhood fielded around 10, while the Ghad nominated around five. One Copt and six women were contesting the elections in Giza.
In Giza’s upscale constituency of El-Doqqi, NDP candidate Amaal Othman, the deputy parliamentary speaker, faced a difficult challenger in Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Abu Ismail. The battle in the working-class constituency of Boulaq El-Dakrour was especially fierce. NDP candidate Ahmed Darwish faced Islamist lawyer Montasser El-Zayat and Brotherhood candidate Gamal Ashri. Equally tough races took place in the underprivileged constituency of Imbaba where NDP candidate Ismail Hilal faced NFC candidate Kamal Khalil and Nasserist journalist Nashwa El-Deeb.
In the Giza constituency, the NDP candidate -- Mohamed Abul-Enein -- is a prominent businessman who was chairman of the outgoing assembly’s housing committee. Abul-Enein, who is also a member of the NDP’s influential Policy Committee led by Gamal Mubarak, faced an easy battle against NFC’s candidate Mohamed El-Ashkar.
In the politically influential governorate of El-Menoufiya, there were 203 candidates competing for 22 seats. The NDP fielded 22, while the NFC fielded eight. Significantly, there were seven women running for seats.
El-Menoufiya’s fiercest battles took place in El-Bagour, Menouf, Talla, and Shebin El-Kom. In El-Bagour, NDP candidate Kamal El-Shazli, the People’s Assembly affairs minister, ran against Wafd candidate Mohamed Kamel; in Menouf, NDP tycoon Ahmed Ezz and independent magnate Ibrahim Kamel faced off. Similar confrontations raged in Talla between Talaat El-Sadat, cousin of late president Anwar El-Sadat, and the NDP’s Mohamed Attiya; in Shebin El-Kom NDP candidate Amin Mubarak, chairman of the outgoing assembly’s Industry Committee and cousin of president Mubarak, ran against the Brotherhood’s Mohamed El-Deeb.
In the four Upper Egypt governorates of Beni Suef, El-Minya, Assiut and the New Valley, 549 candidates competed for 60 seats. The NDP fielded 60 candidates, the NFC 22, and the Brotherhood around 20. The lists of candidates in these governorates also included 17 Copts and 10 women.
In the North Coast governorate of Marsa Matruh, 34 candidates competed for four seats. These included four from the NDP, one from the NFC, and one from the Ghad. It also included one Copt and one woman.
Run-off elections will take place next Tuesday. In the lead up to the vote, expectations were high that more than half of the 82 constituencies being contested would end up needing a run-off. Early expectations were that the NDP could clinch more than 50 seats in the first round, while the NFC wasn’t expected to score more than five.