Introduction by Roger Annis, October 19, 2015
Egyptians abroad began voting on Saturday, October 17 and voting continued on Sunday in 14 Egyptian provinces, including Giza and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. Voting in Egypt’s 13 other provinces, including the capital Cairo, will be Nov. 22-23. Each stage of the vote will be followed by a runoff. Final results will be announced in early December and the new house will hold its inaugural session shortly after.
Egypt has had no parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the elected body. From The Guardian on June 14, 2012: “Two days before the second round of presidential elections, Egypt’s highest court on Thursday dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and ruled that the army-backed candidate could stay in the race, in what was widely seen as a double blow for the Muslim Brotherhood.”
One month after the Muslim Brotherhood-led elected Parliament was dissolved, Egypt’s high court and its military blocked then-President Morsi’s attempts to restore the elected body. (New York Times, July 9, 2012)
There were no official or reliable figures available on Sunday’s turnout, expected to be as low as 10 per cent. State media reports suggested while turnout was low in the morning, large numbers of voters cast ballots in the afternoon. Sunday is the start of the business week in Egypt. The country has more than 50 million registered voters.
Two news articles are enclosed.
Turnout low in Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary election
By Ahmed Aboulenein and Eric Knecht, Reuters, Oct 18, 2015
CAIRO–Many Egyptian voters shunned the first phase of a parliamentary election on Sunday that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has hailed as a milestone on the road to democracy but his critics have branded as a sham.
Polling stations visited by Reuters correspondents pointed to a turnout of around 10 percent, in sharp contrast to the long lines that formed in the 2012 election, suggesting that Sisi, who has enjoyed cult-like adulation, is losing popularity.
Elderly supporters of Sisi comprised a large proportion of those turning out to vote, while younger Egyptians boycotted an election for a chamber they say will just rubber-stamp the president’s decisions.
“It’s not going to matter. It’s just for show, to show that we are a democracy, and we have elections, and blah blah blah any nonsense,” said Ahmed Mostafa, 25, who works in a lab.
Ahmed Ibrahim, a 34-year-old accountant, had a similar view. “The youth in Egypt, our ambition in 2011, we were going to build the country – but then suddenly it was stolen from us,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of my friends are not going to vote.”
The government declared a half-day holiday on Monday for state workers, apparently hoping to encourage more voting.
Egypt has had no parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically-elected main chamber, then dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, reversing a key accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
In 2013, Sisi, then army chief, overthrew Egypt’s first freely-elected president in 2013, the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, then launched the fiercest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history. Human rights groups say Egypt has about 40,000 political prisoners, many of them supporters of Morsi.
“The election is a farce. I don’t think anyone in Egypt is taking it seriously,” Muslim Brotherhood official Wafaa Hefny told Reuters on Sunday.
But many pro-democracy secularists share the sense of disillusionment with the course of events in Egypt, a country of about 90 million where half the population is under 25.
“We are not even actively boycotting. We simply don’t care,” said Mohamed Nabil, a member of the now banned April 6, one of the pro-democracy youth protest movements that helped ignite the uprising that ousted Mubarak. “The youth took to the street for a dream. We had hopes. We wanted democracy and the chance to build our country.”
Security was tight in a country facing an Islamist militant insurgency, in addition to widespread poverty, high unemployment and an energy crisis.
On paper, the new parliament will have wide ranging powers. It can reject the president’s choice for prime minister or even impeach the president. But with Muslim Brotherhood leaders and youth activists behind bars, critics doubt it can provide checks and balances. Few analysts expect turnout to exceed a third of the electorate.
Sisi secured support from other opposition groups for ousting Morsi by promising a prompt parliamentary vote. The elections, repeatedly postponed, are now taking place over two rounds on Oct 18-19 and Nov 22-23. This week, voters cast their ballots in 14 regions including Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast.
Critics say an electoral system that puts the emphasis on individuals is a throwback to Mubarak-era politics, which favoured candidates with wealth and connections. “Being a member of parliament for many is a chance to be close to government. It’s like joining the government club,” said Khaled Dawoud, who recently resigned as spokesman for the Destour Party and Democratic Current electoral alliance.
The unicameral parliament will comprise 568 elected members – 448 elected on an individual basis and 120 through winner-takes-all lists in four districts, with quotas for women, Christians and youth. The president may also appoint a further five percent. Final results expected in December.
“For the Love of Egypt”, an alliance of loyalist parties and politicians, is running for all 120 list seats and is expected to do well.
An alliance of socialist opposition parties that had been due to contest eventually pulled out, leaving the field dominated by Sisi loyalists.
The Islamist Nour Party, which came second in the last election, will take part. However, it has lost much support among Islamists since endorsing Mursi’s overthrow.
Speculation is already rife that the constitution will be amended to curb parliament’s powers.
“I used to sleep in Tahrir Square (in central Cairo) during the revolution (of 2011 against Mubarak) but nothing has changed,” said Ahmed Bahaa Karmy, 26. “Sisi is just like Mubarak.”
Egypt in second day of “election without voters”
By Lin Noueihed , Reuters, Oct 19, 2015
CAIRO–Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said on Monday that turnout during the previous day’s parliamentary election was just 15-16 percent but should rise now after public sector workers were given a half-day off to vote.
Voters, however, appeared to be shunning the ballot box for a second day on Monday in what one newspaper called “an election without voters”, highlighting growing disillusionment since the army seized power in 2013 and promised to restore democracy.
Sunday and Monday’s voting levels were extremely low, a in sharp contrast to the long lines of the 2011-12 election. Younger Egyptians who comprise the majority of the population, stayed away with many people dismissing it as a sham.
Coming days after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged Egyptians to cast their ballots, the low turnout suggested the former general, who once enjoyed cult-like adulation, was losing some of his appeal.
In 2013, then-army chief Sisi overthrew Egypt’s first freely-elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, and promised a “roadmap to democracy”. He then launched the fiercest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history, jailing thousands of Morsi’s supporters as well as activists at the forefront of the 2011 revolt that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule and ignited hopes of change.
Last year’s presidential election was extended for a third day in order to boost turnout, with pro-government media pushing Egyptians to show up. Sisi won 97 percent of votes. This time, even Egypt’s largely loyalist press focused on the lack of interest in the polls. Analysts say Sisi may try to spin the apathy to his favour by arguing that Egyptians place more faith in the presidency.
“An election without voters,” said a front page headline in the business daily Al-Mal. “Elections without queues,” read a headline in Al Shorouk.
Even the pro-government Al Ahram zeroed in on the absence of young people at the ballot box.
“We don’t know anything about these candidates so I’m not going to give my vote to someone who doesn’t deserve it,” Michael Bassili, 19, from Alexandria. “As youth we’re trying to fix the country and we’ll work to do this…but these guys are just interested in money and themselves.”
Egypt has had no parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, then dominated by the Brotherhood, reversing a key accomplishment of the 2011 Tahrir Square uprising.
Repeatedly postponed, Egypt’s elections are now taking place over two rounds on Oct 18-19 and Nov 22-23. This week, voters cast their ballots in 14 regions including Egypt’s second city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast.
Critics say an electoral system that puts the emphasis on individuals is a throwback to Mubarak-era politics, which favoured candidates with wealth and connections.
Of the 568 elected seats overall, 120 will be contested by closed winner-takes-all lists. But even these are expected to be dominated by loyalists.
Outlawed and branded a terrorist group, the Brotherhood, which won almost half the seats in the last election, is boycotting as is much of the secular and liberal opposition.
An alliance of socialist opposition parties that had been due to contest for seats eventually pulled out.
“There is obvious refusal to participate, which is proof that the people know what is going on right now is a farce designed to make the current regime look democratic,” said Mohamed Soudan, an exiled Brotherhood official.
“For the Love of Egypt”, an alliance of loyalist parties and politicians, is contesting all list seats and is expected to dominate.
The Islamist Nour Party, which came second in the last election, has taken part and there was anecdotal evidence of marginally higher turnout in some poorer areas where Islamist sympathies run deep. Neverthless, Nour is not expected to scoop up Islamist votes that would have gone to the Brotherhood because it endorsed Mursi’s overthrow.
Even some who voted for Sisi last year are not planning to cast a ballot this time.
“There is security since Sisi took power and that’s good but its not just about security. A lot of things need to change, the economy, tourism, the high prices in the country,” said Ahmed, a 35-year-old father of three.