Friday, 16 December 2011

Egypt: Higher turnout for second stage of parliamentary elections

The second stage of the elections for the People's Assembly began on 14 th December in nine more governorates: Giza, Menufiya, Sharqiyya, Ismailia, Suez, Beni Sueif, Beheira, Sohag and Aswan.

Around 3,400 candidates are standing for a third of the 498 seats in parliament. A further ten in the 508-seat People's Assembly will be directly appointed by the military rulers. These typically go to women and Copts.

As in the previous round, one third of the seats are being contested on the first-past-the-post system for individual candidates while two thirds are being fought for along party lists according to proportional representation. Twice as many candidates are standing for half as many individual seats: 2,271 for 60 seats compared to 1,116 for the 120 awarded on party lists. The imbalance shows that a greater degree of party discipline is required for the list system.

Some last-minute adjustments to voting were made in answer to circumstances. Head of the High Elections Commission, Abdel Moez Ibrahim, ordered the postponement of voting for party lists in parts of Beheira, Sohag, and Menufiya, because of outstanding court rulings over the amalgamation of party lists. They will take place at the same time as the run-off elections on 21 st and 22 nd December.

Initial reports showed a high turnout although in the first round the initial turnout figure of 62 per cent was later corrected downwards to 52 per cent. A number of abuses and irregularities were reported but nothing like the brazen and wholesale fraud of elections in the Hosni Mubarak era.

Amr Hamzawi – a leading liberal who has the rare and unlikely distinction of being one of only four candidates to win outright in the first round of seats for individual candidates – said that liberals had to work harder to unify their ranks and pick the lists and the candidates most likely to win, if they are to maximise their impact at the ballot box in the complex voting system.

He noted that Liberals "need to avoid generating and sustaining the impression among Egyptians that we as the civil [secular] camp fear Islamists. Those who fear do not convince at the ballot box. It's a highly diverse (Islamist) camp and there are real points of tension between them. The Brotherhood has a strategic interest in generating and sustaining an image for the party and the movement as moderate. Salafists will challenge them".

He added that candidates have to get out on the streets and that "You have to count your potential voters by the number of hands you shake."

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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