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Explainer: How Egyptians are voting in the parliamentary elections

Voters are mostly voting for a list of parties under each “party-list” umbrella

Sonia Farid

Published: Updated:

The first round of Egypt’s 2015 parliamentary elections kicked off on Sunday and lasts for two days.

This round covers two of Egypt’s four geographical areas: West Delta - which includes three governorates - and North, Middle and South of Upper Egypt - which includes 11 governorates.

For the first time, a closed-list system has been applied in Egypt. The system means that on one ballot, voters are mostly voting for a list of parties under each “party-list” umbrella.

On a separate ballot, voters also vote for individual candidates. The number of individual candidates they vote for is dependent on the size of the constituencies.

Party-lists vary according to the constituency so that not all lists compete in all four constituencies.

In West Delta, the party-lists competing are:
• Fi Hob Masr (For the love of Egypt)
• Egyptian Front Coalition
• Independent Current
• Knights of Egypt
• Al-Nour

In the North, Middle and South of Upper Egypt, the party-lists competing are:
• Fi Hob Masr (For the love of Egypt)
• Egyptian Front Coalition
• Independent Current
• Call of Egypt
• National Independent Awakening Bloc

While most of the party-lists are a coalition of parties, only the Salafist al-Nour party and the “Knights of Egypt” party each form one entity. Meanwhile, the “National Independence Awakening Bloc” is not a party-list, but a group of civilian individuals that have formed one bloc.

In the first round, West Delta will get 15 party-list seats while the North, Middle and South of Upper Egypt will get 45 - that’s 60 out of a total of 286, while the remaining 226 seats will go to independent candidates.

Who’s who?

“Fi Hob Masr,” rumored to be directly supported by the Egyptian regime, is coordinated by General Sameh Seif al-Yazal, former intelligence officer and currently a security expert and chairman of the Gomhouria Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Under the “Fi Hob Masr” coalition includes 10 parties, the most prominent of which are al-Wafd Party, The Free Egyptians Party, The Conference Party, and the Conservatives Party.

Among the most renowned figures in this party-list are: Former Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Orabi, political analyst Emad Gad (also the party-list’s spokesperson), former MP Akmal Qortam, former Information Minister Osama Heikal and retired football player Taher Abu Zeid.

This party-list is believed to stand the best chance in both the second and first rounds.

“The list is expected to get up to 300 seats and will support President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” Seif al-Yazal said in a statement this week.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Front Coalition and the Independent Current (also banded together under one party-list known as the “Egypt List”) is coordinated by former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik.

The Egyptian Front Coalition includes two parties: the Egyptian National Movement Party led by Shafik and Masr Baladi (Egypt My Homeland) led by Qadri Abu Hussein, a Mubarak-era provincial governor.

The Independent Current coalition is led by Judge Ahmed Al-Fadaly and includes 14 minor political parties and includes a number of public figures such as Gamal Allam, head of the Egyptian Football Federation, and Mohamed Nasr Allam, Mubarak era Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources.

This list is believed to include the largest number of Mubarak era figures, also known as “remnants” of the former regime.

“The main aim of this list is to counter the influence of Islamists and form a strong civilian block,” Shafik has said.

Meanwhile, the Knights of Egypt party-list, which consists of one party with the same name, is mainly made up of veteran army officers known for their support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and headed by Major General Abdel Rafea Darwish, now a security expert.

“Our party-list will support the state and not the president, despite of our support for him,” Darwish has said, adding that one of the party-list’s priorities is making sure Muslim Brotherhood figures do not get any seats.

The National Independent Awakening Bloc, founded by Islamic preacher Sheikh Mohamed Abdullah al-Aswani, includes a number of Sufi movement figures from Upper Egypt. Unlike other lists, this one is not comprised of political parties, but individuals uniting under the same banner. Its candidates include George Kelada, head of the Egyptian Association in Italy.

“Our main goal is to offer representation for marginalized segments of society and to defend the underprivileged who have not had voice,” said Aswani.

The Call of Egypt party-list is headed and founded by activist Tarek Zidan, who is also the chairman of the Egyptian Revolution Party, and made up of 17 political parties and movements such as The Arab Party for Justice and Equality, headed by the list’s coordinator Hisham Anany, and Egypt’s Protectors, and I am Egyptian Coalition.

Among the prominent figures in this list is Adel Abdel Hamid, former justice minister in the interim government that followed the June 30 protests. “Now it is time for the parliament to do its actual job, which is to serve citizens and achieve social justice. This is the main purpose of our list,” Zidan has said.

The al-Nour list, made up of the ultra-conservative party with the same name, is the only Islamist list in both the first and second rounds and is coordinated by party chairman Younis Makhioun.

The list includes former party MPs in the predominantly Islamist 2012 parliament such as Nader Bakkar and Ahmed al-Sharif, as well as Copts such as Nader al-Serafi, who was head of the “38 Copts” coalition for divorce rights.

Despite its previous association with the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Nour supported the June 30 protests that ousted Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in 2013.

“Our purpose is to fight extremism and preserve the integrity of the Egyptian territory in addition to protecting Egypt from the Shiite infiltration,” Makhioun has recently said.