A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Egypt's Runoff Round: Even the State Press Underplays the Story

Egypt's runoff round for the first phase of the Parliamentary elections (14 governorates), despite disappointment at the low turnout overall, is more or less complete, short of challenges. Some accounts suggest turnout for the runoffs was even lower than the 26.5% announced for the first round. Here are the results in  English from Ahram Online:
Preliminary results of the polling have showed that parties have gained over half of the 226 seats contested by individual candidates in the vote.
The Free Egyptians Party, founded by billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris following the popular 2011 revolt, has clinched the biggest quota, announcing it has won 36 seats.
The Future of a Homeland (Mostakbal Watan), a newly founded pro-regime party, came second with 30 seats. The almost 100-year-old liberal Wafd Party won 17 seats, according to its media advisor Yasser Hassan.
"It is a very healthy phenomenon to have a big number of parties winning in the face of independents," assistant secretary-general of the Free Egyptians Party Ayman Abu Al-Ella told Ahram Online.
"It mirrors a political maturity among the people and underlines some parties' ability to strengthen their footing in the political spectrum," said Abu Al-Ella, who appears to have won a seat in Cairo's western suburb of 6th of October City.
But with most of the contesting party members said to be businessmen, some fear a comeback of the kind of patronage politics and cronyism that prevailed under former autocrat Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule before he was overthrown in 2011.
The first round of the much-postponed elections took place last week in 14 of Egypt's 27 governorates and was marred by a low turnout of 26.6 percent of eligible voters.
Only the individual seats were contested in the run-offs, as party list seats in the first round were swept up by For the Love of Egypt, a coalition loyal to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
The Nour Party, the only Islamist party standing in the vote, won 10 seats, mainly in the governorates of Beheira and Alexandria where they court massive popularity.
Nour, which supported the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, lost all party-based seats in the first round to the pro-El-Sisi alliance, despite coming second, due to the highly-criticised winner-takes-all list system.
The liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, which won 23 of the 2011 parliament's 508 seats, only secured 3 places in the poll.
 So the new Parliament part of it elected so far, will be dominated  by For the Love of Egypt (pro-Sisi), the Free Egyptians, founded by a billionaire businessman and also pro-Sisi, and the Future of the Homeland (also pro-Sisi). And some Wafdists (who don't like the Muslim Brotherhood and likely will be pro-Sisi) and some Nour deputies.

Well, there are numerous parties represented. They just don't differ on much.

Tomorrow's front page of Al-Ahram may be indicative of something: the main headline is about a new foreign investment project announced by President Sisi that runs across the page; the election returns get a second tier, shorter headline, and that's on the front page of the Friday (main weekend edition of the flagship state-owned newspaper. Is even the official media underplaying the low turnout and the results?

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