CAIRO: Over 3,000 candidates are vying for seats in the second phase of parliamentary elections that kicks off on Dec. 14.
Voters are to head to the polls at 8 am in nine governorates: Giza, Beni Suef, Menufiya, Sharqeya, Ismailia, Suez, Beheira, Sohag and Aswan.
Over the two-day elections, 18,826,394 citizens are eligible to vote in 10,922 polling stations divided into 20,019 sub-committees. Up to 10,922 judges will oversee the elections and around 2,000 will be on call.
The polls consist of 15 constituencies for party-lists that include 1,429 candidates vying for 120 seats.
Thirty constituencies were allocated for the single-winner seats which will be contested by 2,241 candidates vying for 60 seats.
The results of the first phase gave Islamists about two-thirds of the vote for party lists, leaving the rest to other political powers, including the liberal Egyptian Bloc, which came in third after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafi Al-Nour Party.
Liberals say a lack of coordination between them split the vote.
"But liberals have coordinated well between their various parties to face off with Islamists in the second round," said political analyst Emad Gad.
A number of liberal and leftist political powers, including the Egyptian Bloc, the Revolution Continues Alliance, Al-Adl, the Democratic Front and the Reform and Development Parties, met to coordinate support for candidates vying for single-winner seats in the next two phases of the staggered parliamentary elections.
Yet, the Alliance and Al-Adl Party denied electoral coordination with the liberal Egyptian Bloc and the nine other political parties and civil society movements.
The Alliance, however, said that it would support some of the “respectable names” running with the Bloc, despite the lack of a formal agreement to coordinate support for all candidates.
The coordination initiative was prompted by the domination of the FJP, which won 36 of 54 single-winner seats, followed by the Al-Nour, which won five seats in the first round of the elections, also covering nine governorates.
In electoral lists, FJP got 36.6 percent of the votes, Al-Nour 24 percent and the Egyptian Bloc was third with 13.4 percent.
Although this coordination between liberals and leftists is meant to gather a voting force that would compete against Islamists’, supporters of the latter are confident in the leverage they have on the street.
Yousri Hammad, spokesman of Al-Nour Party, previously told Daily News Egypt that this coordination came as a response to the failure of the liberal and leftist streams in the first phase of the elections.
"What they are trying to do is leading them to lose credibility," he said pointing out that the wide range of political parties gives voters the freedom to choose who they believe would serve them best.
"However, what they are doing is trying to gather diverse parties together and impose that on voters," he added.
Revolutionary youth, as well, were not lucky in the first round of the polls where the only youth winners were Mostafa Al-Naggar, founder of Al-Adl liberal Party, and Ziad El-Elemy, who ran with the Egyptian Bloc and is the youngest member of parliament to date.
The lists of the Revolution Continues Alliance came last after Islamist coalitions and liberal parties.
That prompted the Alliance, which includes several entities like the Revolution Youth Coalition and the Egyptian Stream, the Egyptian Socialist, the Popular Socialist Alliance, Egypt Freedom and Equality and Development Parties, to decide to put their weight behind a number of youth candidates this time around.
Seven revolutionary youth are running in the second phase for individual seats, despite the shortage of resources for promotion.
Some of them are running with the support of the Alliance, including: Abdel Rahman Haridi, Islam Lotfy, Khaled Tellima, Mo’az Abdel Kerim and Yasser Refai, while each of Tarek Mounir and Amr Ezz, two leading figures of the April 6 Youth Movement and the Democratic Front Party, are running as independent candidates.
Some analysts expect this alliance between the revolutionary youth and liberals to be fruitful in the next two phases of elections.
However, Gad believes the opposite.
"There will not be a radical change in the position of the youth lists in the second phase, I believe, although there are prominent names on their lists," he said. "Nothing much will change from the first phase except that the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) is more prepared to supervise the polls than the first time."
On the other side of the fence, Islamist powers are mostly not coordinating their campaigns.
Hammad said that during the first phase, it was clear that his party coordinated with other Islamist parties such as the FJP. However, he said, each of them seemed to have its own vision.
"Although they might seem to be coordinating, I believe the FJP and Al-Nour will compete fiercely against each other in the second round," Gad said.
In the run-offs of the first phase, the FJP was mainly competing against Al-Nour and in the few constituencies where they were not directly facing off, each backed the other’s competitor.
Hammad stressed that Al-Nour is running for the parliament with its own lists with no coordination or alliances.
Liberals also spoke of their need to brush off the stigma of being "anti-Islamist" which analysts believe is a big handicap in a religiously conservative nation.
The SEC had strictly assured that any candidate who uses religious slogans or places of worship in campaigns will be immediately disqualified.
A state of religious polarization was obvious in the first phase, pitting Islamists against liberals and Copts.
The SEC also stressed that candidates must comply with the ban on campaigning 48 hours prior to voting and 24-hours before the run-offs.
This rule was broken in the first phase with reports that candidates were campaigning on election day, but was not penalized by the SEC.
"This time I believe the candidates will be more committed to rules and the SEC will monitor the elections better than the first phase. It has had enough time to prepare," Gad told DNE.
The SEC is facing another dilemma some 70 judges complaining the location of the electoral committees they have been assigned to oversee.
The ruling military council had issued a new statement urging people to participate in the coming phases of the elections and asking them to cooperate with the army and police in securing the polls.
The council renewed its commitment to the integrity and full transparency of the elections saying, "SCAF respects the results of these elections that reflect the will of the great Egyptian public," indirectly refuting statements made by one of its generals last week who said the election results were not representative of the will of the people.
Phase 2 in Numbers
In Giza, 580 individual candidates are contesting 10 seats while 22 party-lists are vying for 20 seats.
In Beni Suef, 184 individual candidates are facing off on 6 seats while 16 party-lists are contesting 12 seats.
In Menufiya, 200 individual candidates are contesting 8 seats while 19 party-lists are vying for 16 seats.
In Sharqeya, 384 individual candidates are contesting 10 seats while 39 party-lists are vying for 20 seats.
In Ismailia, each of the 164 individual candidates is looking forward to win one of the 2 single-winner seats for the governorate in the parliament while 17 party-lists are contesting 4 seats.
As for Suez, 111 individual candidates are contesting 2 seats while 12 party-lists are contesting 4 seats.
In Beheira governorate, 244 individual candidates are vying for 10 seats while 23 party-lists are vying for 20 seats.
In Sohag, 300 individual candidates are contesting 5 seats while 30 party-lists are competing for 20 seats.
In Aswan, 108 individual candidates are facing off on 2 seats while 16 party-lists are contesting 4 seats.