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Egypt elections runoff overshadowed by election fraud

Egypt political parties win the largest proportions of individual seats in the first phase of Egypt’s parliamentary elections tainted by allegations of vote-rigging.

CAIRO — After fierce competition among 418 candidates on individual seats, the runoff of Egypt’s parliamentary elections determined the results of the first phase in which the candidates of political parties won the largest proportions of individual seats.

The runoff of the first phase of the parliamentary elections held Oct. 27-28 covered 14 governorates, where 418 candidates competed for 209 seats. Only four candidates managed to clinch an individual seat in the first round, while the runoff elections in four constituencies will start over after being canceled by court orders. These constituencies are al-Raml First and al-Raml Second in Alexandria, al-Wasta, Bandar Beni Suef and Beni Suef precinct and Damanhour district and precinct in Behira.

Electoral observers and Egypt’s Cabinet operations room noted that the elections runoff was overshadowed by political money and vote-buying at prices ranging from 50 Egyptian pounds ($7) to 700 Egyptian pounds ($87) per vote. These prices were offered by the agents of some candidates to push voters to head to the polls and vote in favor of their candidate.

Tarek Zaghloul, the executive manager at the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, involved in monitoring elections, told Al-Monitor, “Widespread phenomena of vote-buying and directing voters were the most noted infringements and violations that occurred during the two-day runoff.”

He said, “The phenomenon of political money almost disappeared in the 2010 parliamentary elections, prior to the January 25 Revolution, but [in these elections] it made a strong comeback given that most candidates are businessmen and in light of the extreme electoral low turnout.”

He added, “It was very difficult to prove bribes although they were offered publicly in front of polling stations, since the candidates’ agents used force and prevented anyone from taking photos or filming them. However, we filed reports to the High Elections Committee [HEC] on these violations.”

Despite a number of evidenced vote-buying operations documented on video that spread on news sites and social media, the spokesman for the HEC, Judge Amro Marwan, stated in a press conference following the closure of the polling stations on the evening of Oct. 28, “We know there are violations, but the HEC has yet to receive formal complaints to be able to take appropriate action.”

These violations prompted some independent candidates to withdraw during the second day of voting Oct. 28, in protest against lack of equal opportunities between them and those using political money to harvest more votes.

Yasser al-Qadi, a candidate running in the 6th of October district, who had won 5,500 votes in the first round, submitted an official letter to the HEC announcing his withdrawal from the electoral race. He told Al-Monitor, “I withdrew in protest against the flagrant violations by fellow candidates assisted by the police department in the electoral constituency. They prevented my agents from entering polling stations and mobilized voters against me.”

He added, “Before the revolution, any parliamentary election candidate had to be backed by the National Democratic Party, but now he must be on good terms with the security services and police.”

The withdrawals from the elections had started since the announcement by the HEC of the results of the first round Oct. 21. The Call of Egypt list was the first to pull out of parliamentary polls Oct. 24. In a press conference, the list described the electoral campaign as vitiated by political fraud and numerous violations.

Results of the first phase

The results of the elections’ first phase showed that political parties were way ahead in terms of individual seats following a sweeping victory by For the Love of Egypt list, backed by the political administration in the constituencies of West Delta and Upper Egypt, where 125 partisan candidates gained parliamentary seats compared to 84 independent candidates.

The results of the primary vote count at the polling stations and subelectoral commissions in the runoff on individual seats emerged. The Free Egyptians Party had won 36 seats in single-member constituencies in the first phase in addition to five seats on the For the Love of Egypt list in West Delta and Upper Egypt, which is the largest number of seats gained by the political parties.

Noteworthy is the substantial financial support for the Free Egyptians Party backed by Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, who said in a press statement Oct. 28 after the issuance of the results, “I expected these results despite all the attack and distortion campaigns. Our first objective is to eradicate poverty.”

Shehab Wajih, the spokesman for the Free Egyptians Party, commented on the result and told Al-Monitor, “The party is very satisfied with the number of seats obtained in the first round. The candidates fielded by the party in the runoff of the elections will continue the race in the same spirit of optimism.”

Egypt's Mostaqbal Watan Party (Future of Nation), running the parliamentary elections for the first time, came second to the Free Egyptians Party. The party obtained 30 seats, and the six candidates it fielded in the West Delta and Upper Egypt lists also won. This party is expected to compete in the second phase of elections on an additional 96 seats.

The Wafd Party obtained 17 seats. Yasser Hassan, head of the Wafd Party's media committee, told Al-Monitor, “We were expecting this result for many reasons, including the party’s refusal to resort to the use of political money and bribes in favor of its candidates. Moreover, Wafd candidates have substantial influence in the first phase constituencies, [Delta and Cairo].”

Despite the controversy about the Nour Party candidates, their threat to pull out from the elections to object the loss of the party's list in the first phase, their attempts to mobilize voters and their use of political money to buy votes, the party won only 11 seats in the runoff.

Hassan Nafaa, political science professor at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor, “Competition between political parties during the first electoral round did not reflect a real democratic diversity, especially since all these parties represented one political spectrum that supports President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.”

He added, “The use by parties of political money to back their candidates means they are competing on political interests. This justifies the significant low turnout of voters in these elections.”

Nafaa explained, “The loss by the Salafist Nour Party of its popularity is expected as a result of its pro-regime positions. Moreover, the party lost many of its popular bases, and this is evidenced by the fact that its list lost the elections in West Delta where it had a large electoral base in the 2011 elections.”

At the end of the first phase of the elections, a political faction (in reference to most of the candidates who won) strongly backed by Sisi obtained the largest proportion of parliamentary seats so far, amid expectations of similar results in the second phase.

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