Bad day for the NDP

Bad day for the NDP
The ruling NDP took a beating in parliamentary elections at the hands of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

The results of the first round of the second stage of parliamentary elections produced more of the same for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Sunday’s poll covered nine governorates, with the NDP losing 47 seats of the 144 up for grabs, a setback for a party still reeling from the loss of 96 seats in the first stage. Further losses are expected in run-off elections, scheduled for Saturday.

Of the 244 candidates contesting the run-offs 89 belong to the NDP and 41 to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). There will be 104 independents, mostly NDP dissidents, and 10 candidates from the United National Front for Change (UNFC).

The NDP’s nose-dive contrasted with the performance of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Out of 60 MB candidates 13 won seats while a further 41 qualified for the run-offs. Of these more than 25 are expected to win, with the MB making its strongest showing in the Delta governorates of Al-Gharbiya and Al-Qalioubiya and in the coastal city of Alexandria.

MB ranks in the next parliament have already swelled to 47 — almost 10 per cent of the People’s Assembly’s 454 seats — an unprecedented number for a group that remains technically illegal. In 2000 the Brotherhood’s tally was just 17.

The lacklustre performance of the UNFC, the coalition comprising 11 opposition parties and movements, continued. Just 10 candidates out of 70 qualified for the run-offs, and the coalition has secured just six seats. Among the run-off qualifiers are a number of veteran opposition MPs including El-Badri Farghali and Abul Ezz El-Hariri from Tagammu and Adel Eid of the National Coalition for Change and Reform.

The liberal Wafd Party continued to languish. Out of the 40 candidates fielded under the UNFC umbrella only four qualified. Wafd and Tagammu have so far won two seats each.

The first round of the second stage took place in Alexandria, Al-Beheira, Al-Gharbiya, Al-Qalioubiya, Ismailia, Port Said, Suez, Fayoum and Qena. A total of 1,887 candidates, running in 72 constituencies, competed for 144 parliamentary seats. The third and final stage, scheduled for 1 December, will determine the fate of the remaining 136 seats in nine governorates.

The battering meted out to the NDP was Sunday’s biggest story. After mustering only eight seats the party moved to force 60 so-called NDP-independents to register next Saturday as official NDP candidates, a tactic which many observers say is a breach of the voters’ trust. All the NDP-independents have applied to rejoin the party’s ranks ahead of the run-offs.

It was not just the party’s inability to chalk up seats that hurt. The losses were also qualitative with some of the party’s senior figures failing to secure victory. NDP deputy chairman and former minister of agriculture Youssef Wali faces a run-off against the Brotherhood’s Hassan Youssef. Wali, who as agriculture minister stood unopposed, clinched just 12,700 votes while Youssef secured in excess of 21,000. After being fired as agriculture minister two years ago Wali was subjected to a hostile press campaign accusing him of flooding Egypt with carcinogenic pesticides. Other leading members of the NDP — including agriculture minister Ahmed El-Leithi, president of Alexandria University Mohamed Abdallah and chairman of the General Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions (GFETU) El-Sayed Rashed, also face knife-edge battles in the run-offs.

Unlike the first stage, in which many NDP business tycoons stood successfully, the ruling party’s business candidates in the second stage slipped in the polls with Khaled Abu Ismail, chairman of the General Union of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, losing to MB’s Sobhi Saleh.

The MB is expected to consolidate its success in Saturday’s run-offs with 41 candidates poised to swell its ranks. Out of the 60 candidates fielded on Sunday just six failed to at least make it to the second round.

The four Wafdists qualifying for the run-offs include Mohamed Sherdi, a journalist with Al-Wafd newspaper. Sherdi beat NDP businessman Abdel-Wahab Qouta in the Port Said constituency of Al-Manakh, where some of the worst election violations were reported. Ballot boxes were allegedly burned and lawyers participating in the monitoring of elections kidnapped. Indeed, violence marred Sunday’s poll in many constituencies, with one person killed in Alexandria and at least 20 injured. It is a pattern many expect to be repeated on Saturday as NDP candidates seek to save face and recoup their losses.

The three other Wafdists who qualified for run-offs are standing in the governorates of Port Said, Ismailia and Al-Gharbiya.

The Tagammu has so-far fared better than Al-Wafd despite fielding fewer candidates. Five of the party’s 20 candidates have qualified for the run-offs. Topping the list is Tagammu’s veteran leader Khaled Mohieddin, 83, who faced an uphill battle against MB newcomer Taymour Abdel-Ghani. Abdel-Ghani secured 25,500 votes compared with Mohieddin’s 13,500, leading many to fear that Mohieddin’s long political career is nearing its end. In addition to Mohieddin the veteran Tagammu MPs El-Badri Farghali and Abul-Ezz El-Hariri are fighting for their political lives in their Port Said and Alexandria constituencies.

So called “non-NDP independents” scored some successes, the most prominent being Kamal Ahmed, an independent with Nasserist leanings, in Alexandria.

Only one woman — independent Gamalat Rafie in the Delta governorate of Qalioubiya — out of 38 female candidates qualified for the run-offs.