A plethora of candidates

A plethora of candidates


The outlines of the parliamentary elections, scheduled at the end of next November, began to take shape this week. After ignoring a series of boycott calls issued by the ex-chief of the Vienna- based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El-Baradei the Coalition of the Egyptian Opposition Parties (CEOP) — which includes Wafd, Tagammu and the Nasserist parties — have announced that they intend to field around 300 candidates between them. Another coalition of 10 smaller opposition parties also announced on Monday that they would be fielding 400 candidates.

The second coalition, which includes Al-Ahrar (liberals), the Geel (Generation), the new Green Party, Ghad (tomorrow); Egypt’s Youth, the Egyptian Arab Socialist Party; the Takaful (mutual support), Umma (the Nation), the Democratic Union and the New Conservatives, has rejected any form of international monitoring of the polls.

Excluding possible Muslim Brotherhood candidates who will run as independents, 700 opposition candidates will battle it out with the ruling NDP which is fielding 508 hopeful MPs. On 9 October the Muslim Brotherhood held a press conference in which it announced it was targeting 30 per cent of parliamentary seats, a figure that suggests it plans to field between 120 and 150 candidates.

On Monday night the executive council of the Wafd Party announced a preliminary list of 172 candidates, though Wafd Chairman El-Sayed El-Badawi said 250 party members had registered as possible candidates.

“Until now 172 candidates have been approved. They will run in 27 of Egypt’s 29 governorates. A list of their names will appear in Al-Wafd newspaper within days,” El-Badawi said, adding that the total could increase in the meantime. Currently the list includes 15 women.

El-Badawi was at the centre of a storm of criticism this week, accused by party members and public figures of being responsible for the dismissal of Ibrahim Eissa, the editor-in-chief of Al-Dostour daily newspaper, long a thorn in the side of the regime. El-Badawi bought half the share of the paper less than two months ago and his critics accuse him of getting rid of Eissa as part of a secret deal with the NDP. Two Wafdist members, political science professor Iglal Raafat and the popular poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, have resigned from the party in protest.

Wafd’s preliminary candidates include the party’s deputy chairman and former MP Fouad Badrawi in the Daqahliya district of Nabarouh; Mohamed Sherdi, a member of the party’s higher council and current MP in Port Said; businessman and former MP Rami Lakah in Cairo’s commercial district of Azbakiya; Essam Shiha, a lawyer and a member of the party’s higher council, in the Cairo district of Manial Al-Roda, and Taher Abu Zeid, a former football player with Al-Ahli and the national team, in the Cairo district of Al-Sahel. The list also includes Mona Makram Ebeid, former MP and a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo. The list did not include former party chairman Mahmoud Abaza, most probably because his brother Amin, currently the minister of agriculture, decided to run in the family district of Tilien in Sharqiya. It is still unclear whether the Wafd’s secretary-general, Coptic businessman Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, and actress Samira Ahmed, who joined the Wafd a month ago, will stand.

The number of Wafd candidates, points out Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie, is similar to the total fielded in the 2000 and 2005 elections.

“The issue is not the number of candidates but their ability to win seats,” says Rabie. “The Wafd had just six MPs in 2005, which suggests the party’s popular support is ebbing away.”

Rabie has strong suspicions that the Wafd has concluded a secret deal with the ruling NDP to secure more seats in the coming parliament at the expense of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Its chairman El-Sayed El-Badawi is a businessman and we know how fond businessmen are of making deals,” says Rabie. “The decision to fire Eissa might seem a cheap price to pay for more seats in parliament.”

The leftist Tagammu Party announced on 2 October that it would field 83 candidates in 22 governorates. The list includes nine women and eight Copts. Tagammu Chairman Rifaat El-Said said on Monday the figure could increase to 90, depending on available funds.

Sameh Ashour, deputy chairman of the Arab Nasserist party, said the party’s list of candidates had increased from 55 to 60. They will run in all governorates except Suez and Marsa Matrouh. Ashour believes that the Nasserist party — which has not won a seat in the People’s Assembly since 2000 — could make a breakthrough in November.

“Our success will depend on the polls being fair,” said Ashour. Most of the party’s candidates are young people who will campaign under the banner “democracy, development and reform”.

Rabie believes that like the Wafd, Tagammu and Nasserists might up their representation in parliament.

“In the Shura Council polls some Tagammu and Nasserist candidates were allowed to win seats or else were appointed by President Hosni Mubarak. It is a scenario that could well be repeated in the parliamentary elections.”