MINYA: Competition intensified in Minya between the ultra conservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya’s Building and Development Party (BDP) and Coptic candidates in the Upper Egyptian province that enjoys the second highest Coptic population and the strongest concentration of the Islamic group.
Contesting eight single winner seats in four constituencies are 243 candidates, while 10 parties are contesting eight seats in the party lists system in the province’s first constituency, and eight parties contesting another eight seats in the second constituency.
Twenty-four women are running in the elections, five of whom vying for the single winner seat, and 19 in the party lists, ranked mostly third to eighth, lessening their chances of securing seats.
Eighteen Copts are contesting the elections in the province, 12 of who on the closed party lists system.
Political researcher on citizenship issues in Minya Soliman Shafik told Daily News Egypt that Coptic candidates are contesting the elections on three party lists in the first constituency, and this will lead to splitting their votes in front of the Islamists’ lists that are topped by leading figures like Secretary General of the FJP Saad El-Katatny, Head of Al-Wasat Party Aboul Ela Mady, and leader in Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya heading the list of Al-Nour Party Amr Magdy.
The BDP is in an alliance of hardline Islamist parties with the ultraconservative Salafi Al-Nour.
Shafik expects Copts to vote for the secular Egyptian Bloc spearheaded by the liberal Free Egyptians Party and Al-Wasat Party in the second constituency against lists of the FJP and Al-Nour.
Upper Egypt had witnessed some of the worst incidents of violence by Islamist leaders in the 1990s. Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, which had renounced violence later, was at the forefront of the bloody attacks.
Asked about assurances to the Coptic constituency in Minya, Essam Derbala, of the consulting committee of the Al-Gamaa, said such assurances should be mutual.
“Assurances on our part that we will [protect] the rights of our Christian partners in this country are not the only thing required,” he said. “We also demand assurances from the church to all Muslims that it won’t promote for the calls made by the extremists of the Coptic Diaspora, who calls for foreign intervention in Egypt and establishing a Christian state.”
“Anyone who contests elections has to have a communicative vision,” he added.
The youngest candidate is running in the first constituency for the single winner seat. Mohamed Gamal, 25, is a member of the Egyptian Current Party and is supported by the Revolution Youth Coalition. He is running against candidates from the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Al-Nour Party.
Gamal’s main competitors are in their late 40s or 50s, making the competition about more than just ideologies and affiliations, reflecting a generation gap that was evident in the youth-led uprising in January and February 2011.
He told DNE that he is optimistic about the experience, and is wondering why major parties did not give a chance for the youth on their lists despite the fact that youth ignited the revolution.
Voting turnout was high in the morning, lower in the afternoon but picked up again at the end of the day as employees were leaving work.
Some polling stations opened an hour late on Tuesday due to the late arrival of the judges, which led to combining polling stations together.
Eye witnesses said that minor clashes took place between supporters of the secular Egyptian Bloc and Islamists due to campaigning in front of the polling stations.
The Salafi Al-Nour offered free transportation to voters in buses with banners reading "We practice politics … and we don’t violate Sharia," which was described by monitors as group mobilization to vote for the party.
Independent candidate supported by the BDP Alaa Saber also provided free transportation for the voters with his banners plastered on the buses.
Supporters of Al-Nour Party, which is in an Islamist alliance with BDP, used laptops to direct voters to their polling stations and started campaigning in front of the polling stations along with supporters of other independent candidates.
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Egyptian voters choose candidates inside voting booths at a polling station in Minya, some 350 km south of Cairo, during the third and final round of landmark parliamentary elections on Jan. 3. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)