The Brotherhood: No hope for the NDP in Alexandria
Sobhi Saleh, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian, is convinced the upcoming parliamentary elections are going to be a fierce competition in Alexandria because the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has been actively seeking to curb the political influence of Brotherhood members there.
Saleh is running against NDP candidate, Minister of Local Development, and former Alexandria Governor Abdel Salam Mahgoub.
?“?We are ready and well prepared to defend our seats,” Saleh told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
This month the Brotherhood in Alexandria organized two protests against alleged violations committed by the NDP government regarding prevention of MB candidates from submitting parliamentary applications at the Alexandria Security Directorate.
In his stronghold district of al-Raml, an estimated 10,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters chanted anti-government slogans?.?
?“?The whole constituency of al-Raml has a Brotherhood tendency,” argued Saleh. “For historical reasons Alexandria as a whole was an opposing voice to the ruler in Cairo and in the last three decades, the Brotherhood has the most popular voice here."
Alexandria is the third most influential parliamentary stronghold for the Brotherhood after Gharbiya, where it has ten seats in the outgoing parliament, and Cairo, where it maintains nine.
Unlike other governorates, which have a mix of non-Brotherhood independent candidates and representatives of political parties, Alexandria is highly dominated by the two main opposing blocs: the NDP and the MB?.
In the 2005 elections, power was divided in Alexandria between the NDP, which won only nine seats out of 20, and eight seats for the Brotherhood, in addition to two non-Brotherhood independent candidates. The Nasserist party secured one seat.
For the impending elections in Alexandria, Saleh said the Brotherhood will vie for nine seats–one of them the female quota.
The NDP, which has only nine seats in the coastal city in the outgoing parliament, declared that it is fielding 29 candidates–of whom two are cabinet ministers–in the poll.
Al-Wafd party, the biggest formal opposition party in terms of party members, said it is fielding 13 candidates while the leftist Tagammu party will offer ten in Alexandria.
"The NDP wants to reshape the electoral scene in Alexandria," argued Saleh. "They are afraid of the Brothers’ influence especially with the systematic deterioration in the lives of people in Alexandria."
The unemployment rate in Alexandria rose by more than 12.9 percent in the last five years, which makes it the highest official unemployment rate by district in Egypt.
When asked about the power of his NDP rival in al-Raml constituency, Saleh said, "he doesn’t worry me. He is coming to the constituency bearing all the files of corruption and governments failure. You have to take into consideration that al-Raml is the constituency of Hisham Talaat Mustafa and everybody in the constituency is against him and his misconduct."
Mustafa is the NDP member and Egyptian real estate tycoon who, in September, was found guilty of hiring a former Egyptian police officer to kill 30-year-old pop star Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim in Dubai in July 2008 to avenge her acts of adultery against him.
In the last parliamentary elections, Brotherhood candidates played on the misconduct of the government in order to mobilize voters in their favor, according to Michele Dunne and Amr Hamzawy of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"I’m an opposition member. I have to make use of the government’s errors," said Saleh, adding that Mahgoub was a former governor of Alexandria and voters in his constituency don’t feel that he brought them anything.
The Salafi movement in Alexandria adds to the elections power game. Historically, the movement is a strong social and religious force known for its apolitical discourse and strict focus on Islamic principles. Both the NDP and the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking the movements’ electoral support, however.
"I know that NDP is trying to reach them, however, there will be no Islamic movement that will refrain from giving its votes to another Islamic Movement," said Saleh.
As for potential irregularities–no full judicial supervision over the elections has been granted by the government–Saleh said that the Brotherhood is simply ready for more formidable fight. They will also have to monitor ballot boxes more closely, he added.
“We are prepared to see more of our supporters detained or being physically attacked by the police and its thugs," concluded Saleh. “We have more burden to carry and more sacrifices to make this time