By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: The few seats that the opposition have won in this year’s parliamentary elections could cause rifts in political parties and groups, especially those that have either boycotted or called for the boycott of the runoff round on Dec. 5.
The Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) announced the final results of the Nov. 28 parliamentary elections on Dec. 6 amid wide accusations of fraud, which prompted the withdrawal of Al-Wafd opposition party and the banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB) just days before the Dec. 5 runoffs.
The final results showed that the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) swept the polls — winning 420 out of 508 seats in the PA— while Al-Wafd won six seats, Al-Tagammu won five and the Democratic Peace Party and the Muslim Brotherhood won one each. Sixty-nine independent candidates, not including the MB candidate who also ran as independent, won. One Al-Ghad member had won a seat in the first round even though the party had boycotted the elections.
According to the SEC, the runoffs had a 27-percent voter turnout of 29,109,107 registered voters. Of the 65,298 ballot boxes, 257 or 0.4 percent were invalidated, according to the SEC. The results of four seats were invalidated, making the total elected seats 504 rather than 508.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said that “it was a shock [to people] that the NDP won the majority of seats, while the Brotherhood won none, because it wasn’t expected.”
Nazif also stated that the MB’s poor parliamentary performance following the 2005 elections is what pushed the people away from voting for the group’s candidates this year.
“The increase in representation of different political parties in this years’ parliament is much better than having the forbidden [MB] group win the majority of opposition seats,” Nazif added.
In the 2005 parliamentary elections, the MB won 88 seats, representing nearly 20 percent of the outgoing parliament.
MB-affiliated parliamentary candidate in Al-Nozha district of Cairo, Magdy Ashour, won the group’s sole parliamentary seat this year.
Ashour could not be reached for comment at press time. It remains unclear whether he will choose to relinquish his parliamentary seat or will accept his duties as a MP in spite of the MB’s decision to withdraw as a group.
“It’s totally up to [Ashour],” Saad El-Katatni, head of the 2005 MB parliamentary bloc, told Daily News Egypt. “We are not pressuring him to withdraw. He can choose to do whatever he sees fit. But if Magdy Ashour decides to [accept the MP position], he will be considered an independent candidate who does not represent the Brotherhood.”
El-Katatni stressed that “the Brotherhood is committed to its decision to withdraw, and will not be represented in this parliament.”
MB leaders have yet to decide whether Ashour will be expelled from the MB if he accepts the parliamentary seat.
“We need to sit down and discuss the matter with him under normal circumstances, and then decide whether or not he would remain a member in the Brotherhood, according to the group’s executive statute,” said El-Katatni.
El-Katatni added that the MB was unable to reach Ashour to further discuss the issue.
“We [the MB] haven’t been able to reach him,” said El-Katatni. “He’s tightly besieged by his family and the security forces who are trying to pressure him to accept his [MP] nomination.”
Ashour’s brother, Mohamed Ashour, reportedly filed a complaint accusing the MB of kidnapping the parliamentary candidate on Friday after a heated argument with the group’s leaders.
The argument stemmed from Magdy Ashour’s decision to participate in the runoff elections, according to Mohamed Ashour.
In a phone interview with Egypt’s state television program “Masr El-Naharda” (Egypt Today) on Saturday evening, Magdy Ashour denied that he was kidnapped by the MB and confirmed the group’s statement saying he had traveled to Alexandria to rest and kept his mobile phone switched off.
The Ministry of Interior, however, issued a statement saying that its investigations showed that Magdy Ashour was indeed abducted by the MB over his refusal to withdraw from the runoff elections.
El-Katatni stated that security forces are pressuring Magdy Ashour to join the parliament to cause a rift among the MB and to put the group’s unity into question.
“But [the security forces] are mistaken,” said El-Katatni. “Everyone who joins the Brotherhood does it voluntarily and endures many hardships and difficulties from the government — including arrest — as a result.
“The Brotherhood is tougher and stronger than any political party,” El-Katatni added.
Opposition parties made more significant gains, but are also facing rifts as a result.
Three candidates from Al-Wafd party announced that they would contest in the runoffs and accept their duties as MPs despite the party’s decision to withdraw.
“Those who defied the party’s decision will be investigated according to Article 5 of the party’s executive statute,” Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, the secretary general of Al-Wafd, told Daily News Egypt.
According to Abdel Nour, the investigations can result in either issuing a warning to the candidates, mildly reprimanding them, or by expelling them from the party altogether.
“We will inform the PA that Al-Wafd has no representatives in this parliament, and the candidates will be considered independents,” Abdel Nour said.
The official Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted Al-Wafd candidate Atef El-Ashmouny in Cairo’s Matariya constituency on Friday as saying that political parties were created to be a part of politics and to expose violations.
El-Ashmouny added that he would continue competing for the PA seat regardless of whatever action the party takes against him.
Al-Tagammu Party contested in the runoff elections despite calls from within the party to withdraw. It won a total of five seats in the elections, four of which were clinched in the runoffs.
The party’s leader, Refaat Al-Saeid, was not satisfied with the elections results.
“If we were contesting in fair and transparent elections, we would have won a lot more seats than we did,” Al-Saeid told Daily News Egypt.
Al-Tagammu fielded 68 candidates in addition to the six Al-Tagammu candidates who competed in the Dec. 5 runoffs.
“The [Al-Tagammu] candidates who won in the runoffs were supposed to win in the first round of elections on [Nov. 28],” Al-Saeid said.
Talaat Fahmy, a prominent member of Al-Tagammu in the Giza governorate, said that — as mandated by the party’s executive statute — members of the party who are elected to parliament become automatic members of the executive bureau, which makes all of the party’s decisions.
“We won’t accept the candidates who participated in these forged and rigged elections as our leaders,” Fahmy told Daily News Egypt. “We are taking the necessary steps for the Central Committee to convene and evaluate the leadership’s performance, in an effort to pressure their resignation from the party.”
“It’s [the Central Committee’s] right to do so,” said Al-Saeid. “We discussed the matter of withdrawing from the runoff elections in the party’s executive bureau with the candidates, and [the executive bureau] made the final decision to contest in the runoffs.”
Fahmy said that on Nov. 12, the opposing wing within Al-Tagammu will file a complaint to the Administrative Court to invalidate the parliamentary elections.
El-Katatni said that the MB will collect all of the court rulings its candidates have received that determined elections in specific governorates to be invalid and unconstitutional. The MB will discuss the matter further with its legal team and decide on next steps to take against the “so-called” elected parliament, added El-Katatni.
Opposition and human rights groups accused the NDP of many violations during the elections, including ballot stuffing, vote rigging, and denying opposition party representatives’ entry into the polling stations despite their possession of notarized permits.
Nazif stated that the elections were free and fair, adding that there “was no interference on behalf of [the] security forces.”
The SEC released a statement that, although some “transgressions” did indeed occur, they “did not undermine the general probity and integrity of the elections.”
Anti-riot policemen block the way in front of a polling station in El Dakahlia, Sunday, Dec.5. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)