By Heba Fahmy and Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: Challenges facing candidates in the Nov. 28 parliamentary elections have escalated, as security crackdowns, disputes, and even death have complicated the race.
The Supreme Electoral Commission has approved 5,181 candidates for the election out of roughly 5,328 who applied. Three hundred and ninety seven women applied for candidature for 64 seats in 32 constituencies, allocated exclusively to women.
The ruling National Democratic Party is fielding about 800 candidates, the liberal Wafd opposition party about 250 and the Muslim Brotherhood 135 candidates for the 508 seats up for election.
In an emotional and political blow to the NDP only days away from the elections, Kamal Al Shazly, NDP candidate and long-serving MP for the Bagoor district in Menufiya, passed away Tuesday after his blood flow suddenly cut short.
“I knew him personally,” Mohamed Khalil Kwaitah, a Damietta MP and NDP candidate, told Daily News Egypt. “He was a great man who loyally served his country and his people.”
According to media reports, Al Shazly’s funeral — which was attended by President Hosni Mubarak and other high-ranking government officials — turned into a large demonstration as thousands of Al Shazly supporters demanded that the Bagoor district not be included in the upcoming elections.
Other supporters demanded that Al Shazly’s son be the one to walk in his father’s footsteps, in honor of Al Shazly.
“According to the law, the NDP can’t nominate another candidate after the registration process has ended,” Kuwaitah said. “This means that [Al Shazly’s] competitor is likely to win the votes in the constituency.”
Al Shazly was running against Al-Wafd candidate Mohamed Kamel. According to media reports, Kamel had lost to Al Shazly in the last five elections.
For opposition candidates, namely the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), security crackdowns remain the biggest challenge.
Ever since the MB announced on Oct. 9 its decision to contest candidates for the Nov. 28 legislative polls, Egypt’s security forces have detained nearly 600 MB members most of whom had been released, according to AFP.
One hundred and thirty seven MB members of from 17 different governorates were detained on Tuesday, including four female MB candidates for the Suez governorate, according to the group’s lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud.
They 137 MB members were accused of using religious slogans to promote the election of MB candidates.
“We expect [the 137 MB members] to be released, because the accusations against them are groundless,” Abdel Maqsoud told Daily News Egypt.
The SEC said that candidates using religious slogans would be eliminated. The MB is known for having regularly used the religious slogan “Islam is the Solution” for its candidates until the SEC instated the ban on religions slogans.
“The SEC is an administrative body, not a judicial body,” Abdel Maqsoud said. “It has no say on whether or not we can use religious slogans as long as the Administrative Court already ruled in favor of it.”
In 2005, the Administrative Court ruled in favor of MB candidates in the use of their “Islam is the Solution” slogan when campaigning for the parliamentary elections.
The Administrative Court’s verdict cited Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution, which states that “Islam is the religion of the state. Arabic is its official language, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia).”
Five MB-affiliated candidates in Alexandria remain excluded from the general election registration list by the SEC, despite receiving a court order last week in their favor.
“The Administrative Court issued a verdict in [the MB candidates’] favor, but the SEC refused to implement the court order,” MB-affiliated independent candidate Hussein Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt.
The SEC challenged the Administrative Court’s order, and the final decision is expected to be made on Saturday, according to Ibrahim.
“According to Article 50 of the state council law, the Administrative Court’s decision is enforceable by law and can not be appealed,” Abdel Maqsoud told Daily News Egypt.
“If the Administrative Court’s verdict is not implemented, then the SEC and government will be caught red-handed in rigging the elections and violating the Constitution and law,” said Ibrahim.
Mahmoud Attia, a current MP and MB-affiliated candidate in Alexandria, was attacked by security forces on Monday while touring his district with about 18 supporters, which included eight women and their children who were giving season’s greetings to Alexandria’s citizens during Eid Al-Adha.
“We were greeting the people and wishing them the best for Eid Al-Adha, like we do every year, when an officer from the Security Directorate named Ahmed Al Tabba ordered us to stop and threatened us,” Attia told Daily News Egypt.
Attia told the officer that he was a MP and had the right to reach out to the people of his district, as well as to campaign for the elections — even though that wasn’t his intention — according to Attia.
Five supporters of Attia were reportedly attacked by security forces in Alexandria last week while they were in the process of hanging posters of the MB candidate. Two of the supporters had to be taken to the hospital.
Attia filed a complaint to the prosecutor general on Monday about the incident and is awaiting news of any developments that arise. As a serving MP, Attia could not be detained according to Egyptian law.
“[The National Democratic Party (NDP) is] so weak and impotent that it can’t compete against [the MB] in the elections transparently,” Attia stated. “[The NDP must] resort to bullying and violence to achieve that … but we will expose their methods and show the world what their ‘free transparent elections’ are really like.”
Other opposition groups complain about procedural difficulties.
On Nov. 14 the Elections Petitions Committee accepted a complaint filed against independent candidate Mohamed Anwar Sadat by Tagammu Party candidate Ahmed Ragab, asserting that Sadat is not eligible to run for the workers’ parliamentary seat because he has a university degree and a commercial portfolio.
The law requires that at least 350 people be elected to the parliament, at least half of which must be workers and farmers.
The decision to prevent Sadat from running for the workers’ seat in Tela will force him to run for the professionals’ seat against his brother, NDP candidate Effat Sadat.
Anwar Sadat described in a statement the Elections Petitions Committee’s decision as “far from equality and justice,” as he previously ran for — and won — the workers’ seat in the 2005 People’s Assembly elections.
“There are many running for the workers’ seat who have a commercial portfolio and a university degree, and yet nothing has been done even though appeals were filed against them [as well],” said Anwar Sadat, in reference to NDP candidate Fakhry Tayel, against whom Ragab also filed a complaint.
When Anwar Sadat tried to appeal the decision, he said the SEC impeded the process in every possible way.
“Who should the candidate turn to? It’s all set in order to complicate matters … and is targeting the Sadat family, the opposition and those who have an opinion … But we won’t lose hope and we won’t give up,” he stated.