Egyptian Elections and Opposition: Declaration of Death or the Launch of a New Phase
Disappointing election results of the 2010 People’s Assembly polls came as a thunderbolt not only to the opposition parties but also to the masses. Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party has dominated most seats of parliament contrary to observers’ expectations as he indicated that the opposition would be present in parliament with the same number of seats but a different distribution. The Muslim Brotherhood’s 88 seats will not go to the group but will be distributed among the Wafd, Tagammu, Nasserist and other parties. Therefore, the parties are contesting the polls in the hope of winning seats, with the exception of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
It seems that Egypt’s ruling party is set to sweep today’s parliamentary election as it prepares for next year’s presidential vote, something that lead to the MB and Al-Wafd deciding to boycott the run-off amid warnings of splits within the parties because the leaders of some parties objected on contesting or because some party candidates were dissatisfied because they did not receive enough support from their parties.
Internal divisions began in the largest party, Al-Wafd, whose candidates emerged empty-handed from the first round unaware of irregularities. Despite fielding 244 candidates, it was considering quitting the run-off vote. Al-Wafd ordered to fire candidates refusing to boycott the runoff election. Some candidates abided by the decision, while others challenged it without considering its negative consequences.
The Progressive Unionist Party (Tagammu) won one seat in the first round that triggered party leaders to insist on contesting in the runoff elections but Al-Tagammu Party members from 15 governorates refused to be pawns in the hands of the government, threatening disagreement and division within the party and demanding a vote of no confidence against Tagammus’s Rifaat El-Said.
Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, a leading member of the political bureau, has stressed that the election was intended to make splits and the opposition parties are struggling with internal problems which was the NDP’s ultimate purpose.
Leaders of the leftist Tagammu Party tabled against the decision of the party head to enter the second round of elections and the 50 Tagammu members were planning a sit-in in front of the Tagammu headquarters calling for a vote of no confidence against Rifaat El-Said.
In its first meeting after the election, the Arab Nasserist Party witnessed disputes to the extent of accusations of treason. Some members also demanded to suspend the party’s activists, led by Nashwa Al-Deeb who demanded to withdraw.
"Egypt’s repressive regime sent a dramatic message to the international community over its determination to face down any challenge to its authority, after stage-managing parliamentary elections that virtually wiped out the formal opposition", quoted from the Guardian as it commented on results of the first round of the Egyptian parliamentary polls.
During the day, election-related violence claimed at least eight lives. Early results from the poll – described by domestic and international observers as "breathtaking" in its levels of fraud – suggest that the ruling National Democratic party (NDP) has captured 96% of the seats, while the 88 opposition members from the Muslim Brotherhood, could be erased to zero.
Such clear evidence of rigging is likely to cause consternation in western capitals, from where there is strong pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to embrace some democracy.
This will be viewed as a particular slap on the face for the Obama administration, which only last week publicly pressed the Egyptian government to ensure these elections were credible.
The Guardian also quoted Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution thinktank and an analyst of Egyptian politics, as saying: "We knew it was going to be bad, but I don’t think anyone realised it was going to be this bad."
Hamid commented: "These election results indicate that the regime is frightened about the impending transition, and they’re not in the mood to take any chances over their own survival as we enter what will be one of the most challenging periods in Egypt’s modern history.
It is certainly true that the Egyptian parliamentary election is a major turning point in the future of the Egyptian opposition, and perhaps the future of the Egyptian People’s Assembly that has lost its legitimacy with many court’s rulings having ordered parliamentary elections halted in most Egyptian governorates. Perhaps the consensus of some opposition parties to take a unified stance on the run-off gives a strong impetus but many other possibilities remain to determine the validity of any of these possibilities in the next few days.