Thu, Sep. 12, 2013
People’s Assembly elections: Between supporters and opposition By Hana Zuhair
The talk of the political town of late has been completely occupied with the People’s Assembly elections, held November 28 with runoffs on December 5.A total of 5,064 candidates, 300 of them women, contested for 508 seats — 444 regular seats and 64 new seats allocated specifically for women and filled through a special ballot. As many observers expected, the governing National Democratic Party won an overwhelming victory, taking 209 seats in the first round of voting and an additional 211 in the runoffs. In the final tally, the NDP won 420 seats, independents won 70, Al-Wafd took six seats and El-Ghad took one seat. Ahmed Shawky, head of High Election Commission’s (HEC) operations room, announced that the voter turnout after the first round was 25 percent, on par with the turnout for the 2005 elections. However, observers with the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development reported that the voter turnout was closer to 10 to 15 percent. Opposition parties, groups and local observers complained that the elections were marked by fraud and voter intimidation, asserting that voters had been prevented from entering polling stations. Incidents of violence and protests were reported from around the nation, with election-related violence leaving 16 dead and many more injured, according to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR). Amid these allegations, Al-Wafd and the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the December 5 runoffs after participatipng in the first round of PA elections. Independent candidates affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which had previously held 88 PA seats, secured only one seat in the final count. On December 15, the Brotherhood announced that the winner of one seat, MP Madgy Ashour, had been expelled from the group for failing to follow the Brotherhood’s boycott of the election. At press time, Al-Wafd had not announced whether it would dismiss newly-elected MPs from the party for violating the boycott. HEC’s Al-Sayed Abd Al-Aziz Omar, president of Cairo’s Appeals Court, was tasked with supervising the election process and investigating complaints related to the voting and its results. According to HEC’s official website, they invalidated votes in 1,053 ballot boxes in the first round, due to received complaints, and another 253 boxes during the runoffs. On December 1, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif publicly congratulated the HEC for “fulfilling its duty.” The Egyptian Alliance for Monitoring the Elections, comprising 123 local NGOs acting as independent observers of the elections, criticized the HEC’s performance. In a December 1 press conference, Hafez Abu Saada, head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), said that civil society groups were not permitted to monitor the elections, with only 466 permits to enter polling stations granted out of the 1,113 requested. “We have proof that the HEC’s report needs to be revised,” Abu Saada said. “We are objective; we are neither for or against any political movement.” Although activists and US officials, including former US Ambassador to Egypt Edward Walker, called for international monitoring of the elections, the government vehemently refused, saying it would not accept foreign interference in domestic affairs. Restrictions on the media continued throughout the election period, with state-run Ahram Online reporting that several reporters were arrested or had equipment confiscated while covering the polls. On December 12, President Hosni Mubarak named his appointees for the last 10 PA seats, with seven Copts among the group of nine men and one woman. When the new assembly convened, the NDP’s Fathi Sorour was re-elected as the PA Speaker, by 505 votes out of 506. Meanwhile, opposition groups, democracy activists and NGOs have continued their allegations of election rigging and called for the PA election results to be annulled. This year’s parliamentary elections are of particular importance in light of the 2011 presidential elections. Article 76 of the Constitution stipulates that would-be presidential candidates must be nominated by the governing councils of state-recognized political parties that have been in existence for at least five years before the election. Until 2017, eligible parties must have won at least one seat in either the People’s Assembly (PA) or the Shura Council in the most recent election in order to field a presidential candidate.
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