Q&A: Egypt’s election issues

Q&A: Egypt’s election issues

Q&A: Egypt’s election issues 
Egyptian women carry a poster of a Muslim Brotherhood candidate
Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) is expected to face stiffer competition from opposition candidates in Wednesday’s poll than in previous elections, in particular from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and a new alliance of 12 groups.

BBC Monitoring looks at the issues likely to preoccupy voters.

Q: What is at stake?

The vote is seen as a further test of Egypt’s nascent political reforms, embodied by September’s first ever multi-candidate presidential elections.

Observers will be watching to see if the opposition can increase its current share of seats from some 30 out of over 400.

The stakes are higher than usual, since under a new constitutional amendment only political parties gaining 5% of seats in the People’s Assembly will be eligible to field candidates in the 2011 presidential election.

Q: What do the parties stand for?

Ruling NDP party candidates base their programmes on President Hosni Mubarak’s manifesto in the presidential election.

He has promised further constitutional and legislative reforms to strengthen democracy and human rights. And he has pledged to reconsider the emergency law, in place since he came to power.

Political and economic reforms also top the opposition agenda.

Both the ruling party and opposition pledge action on unemployment, living standards, corruption, education, healthcare and security.

The opposition is critical of the NDP’s ability to deliver the goods.

Q: Who is the opposition?

The MB – which although outlawed is backing more than 150 independent candidates – is seen as the most potent opposition force.

Meanwhile, the new National Front for Change, comprising 12 political groups, has announced a joint list of 225 candidates.

Despite disagreements, the alliance and the MB have agreed to join forces in as many constituencies as possible to overthrow NDP candidates.

Q: Will the elections be fair?

All government bodies, including the interior ministry, insist polling will be impartial and neutral.

Unlike previous elections, there have been no arrest campaigns launched against the MB. Some of its candidates have publicly praised this.

Some opposition forces, however, accuse the authorities of interfering on behalf of NDP candidates.

They say some state officials, particularly six ministers standing as NDP candidates, have exploited their office by offering "electoral bribes" in the form of job opportunities and other services to voters.

And there have been claims that the government plans to rig the vote by falsely registering about two million voters in some constituencies.

Q: Who will monitor the polls?

Whether or not to invite foreign observers has been a topic of heated debate.

What is often referred to as a new ruling "party elite", represented by President Mubarak’s son Jamal, argued in favour. But the NDP old guard was against such a move, and they won the day.

The country’s main administrative court has ruled that an association of 27 Egyptian NGOs has the "unconditional right" to monitor the polls.

The Egyptian Bar Association has also signalled its intention to monitor, while the state-sponsored National Council for Human Rights has set up a body to observe the process and receive complaints.

Q: Who is likely to win?

Initially, independent candidates are expected to win the majority of seats – as indeed they did in 2000. The ruling NDP got just 37%.

But the NDP was subsequently joined by a large number of independents, boosting its share to well over 400 seats out of the total 444.

Reports suggest a similar scenario is likely this time too, with the NDP planning to woo back NDP dissidents.

The opposition is, however, thought likely to end up with more seats this time. MB leaders say they will win 50-70 seats, while analysts put the figure at about 30.

Weakened by years of laws restricting political activities, other parties are likely to win their usual quota, ranging from one to eight seats.

Q: How well represented will women be?

Despite President Mubarak’s pledge to boost the representation of women in parliament, the NDP has only six women on its candidate list.

The opposition alliance is fielding seven women and the MB only one.

Women’s organisations in Egypt have expressed their disappointment at this low representation of women on election lists.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.