A polling station at Sayda Zainab district, Cairo during the first round of the second phase of parliamentary elections, on November 7, 2020 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Islam Safwat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Sweeping victory of Nation’s Future Party Shows Return to Pre-2011 Electoral Politics

11/19/2020 . By Shohdi Mourad

In the working class neighborhood of Shubra, waiting in front of a privately-owned warehouse where workers were distributing black plastic bags containing beans, cooking oil, packets of tea and sugar, and tuna, 65-year-old Ismail, a retired employee at the Ministry of Electricity waited to receive a bag.

The previous week, Ismail was promised by an extra bag by his local Ministry of Supply vendor if he voted for the three candidates from the Nation’s Future Party who were running in his district for parliamentary elections.

The second stage of the elections for the House of Representatives was held at 9,468 polling stations across of 13 governorates: Cairo, Qalioubiya, Daqahliya, Menoufiya, Gharbiya, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Sharqiya, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai, with 31 million Egyptians eligible to cast their votes.

At the conclusion of the two stages across all of the county’s governorates, the National Elections Authority announced that the electoral list led by the Nation’s Future Party had swept up the majority of votes.

Ismail was accompanied by around a dozen other voters who also were promised bags of goods after voting. After two hours of waiting, verbal arguments between voters and volunteers started to escalate, leading to a fistfight as the warehouse ran out of bags.

Dozens of other acts of vote buying were documented on social media and independent local press, mostly by members of the pro-government Nation’s Future Party and other wealthy candidates in remote villages and poorer areas.

Although the government-affiliated National Council for Human Rights cited incidents of bribes taking place, the National Elections Authority and the cabinet reported they did not document any.

“They are abusing the fact that there are impoverished people in need who are in need of these bags,” Ismail said as he left the warehouse.

While Ismail didn’t get his promised bag of food rations, two days later, the three Nation’s Future candidates who he voted for dominated the count in Shubra, securing all three seats.

After securing a majority of 154 seats this past fall in elections for Egypt’s inaugural Senate—an upper parliamentary house whose role will be largely consultative—and the position of its speaker, the party, which is a vocal supporter of the country’s security apparatus and latest waves of austerity measures and price hikes, is seeking another sweeping victory in the House of Representatives.

The relatively-new party was formed in 2014 as a youth political wing to support then-presidential candidate and former Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Amid an ongoing crackdown on political dissent in both in the public sphere and civil society, in a matter of six years, the party is currently spearheading the country’s electoral politics scene, drawing parallels with Hosni Mubarak’s currently-dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP).

In several statements and media appearances, the party has denied repeatedly that it is seeking to replicate the practices of former ruling parties, asserting its openness to a political life that is free of any monopoly.

Asked whether control over the sheer majority of the country’s legislative bodies means total control of the political scene, a senior member in the party’s branch in Alexandria, who agreed to answer questions on condition of anonymity, explained that “the party had established a coalition named “For the Love of Egypt” containing different arrays of political opinions from different parties who either support or are critical of the government.”

“We are talking about ten other parties of different backgrounds: liberal, leftist, and centrists, all who are united to support the Egyptian state in the current challenging moment,” he added.

This electoral coalition includes the parties such as the Republican People’s Party, Egyptian Freedom Party, Homeland Defenders, Modern Egypt, al-Wafd, Tagammu, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Reform and Development Party, Egyptian National Movement, and the Congress Party.

The coalition has secured 100 seats in the next House of Representatives, dramatically outperforming all other parties and coalitions.

“Yes there is a majority in the numbers of our candidates, but this is according to each party’s financial and logistical ability,” he said.

Regarding the party’s sources of finance, the party member said “several of the party’s members are patriotic businessmen.”

This worrying monopoly is already taking place across several syndicates, civil society institutions, ministries, and local authorities, where prominent positions are reserved for pro-state political and social actors, a political act that marked Mubarak’s reign.

A recent example of this is the appointment of the party’s head Abdel Wahab Abdel Raziq as speaker of the recently-elected Senate. Abdel Raziq worked as the Chief of the Supreme Constitutional Court after his predecessor Adly Mansour resigned to serve as interim President following the 2013 ouster of Muhammad Morsi.

He was part of the judicial countermovement to dismiss legal verdicts by both the State Council and the Court of Urgent Matters regarding the maritime border demarcation agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, hence affirming the transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.

In 2018 his service ended and in 2020 he ran for the Senate as part of the Nation’s Future Party and was elected.

“We are very far from being a version of the NDP like the media is saying,” maintained the Alexandria-based party member.

“We believe in a model where there is one big umbrella where several political actors can practice public work from, while supporting the Egyptian state and its institutions,” he added.

“We are here to fill in the gap of the absence of a political scene,” he said adding “we are not the party of the president or the state but we are proud supporters.”

The Nation’s Future Party’s charity activities include holding massive seasonal markets that sell discounted goods, often found in main squares and outside Cairo’s metro stations, as well as distributing food rations, clothes and blankets to impoverished communities. The party also hosts sports tournaments and mass conferences to support the political leadership and the security apparatuses.

Drawing the support of several former officials, officers, judges and businessmen, it has a strong presence in almost all of the country’s major cities, in addition to a strong media in private and state-owned outlets.

The Nation Future Party has a strong and organized presence in printed, visual, and online media. Most of the media content it generates are heavily broadcasted in pro-state channels such as Sada Al-Balad, DMC and ON TV. In addition, it owns an official website and an online news outlet.

The party’s activities, workshops, and statements are also widely distributed among Arabic language media outlets as press statements. Headlines like the Nation’s Future Party distributing or selling cheap blankets, electronic devices, meat products, or school supplies can be found weekly in Egyptian press.

In many cases, the party parrots and cheers for the president’s statements and political positions, inundating the media with statements praising speeches by the state leaders and producing hyper nationalist music videos hailing the police and army.

In the working class neighborhood of Al-Marg, one of Cairo’s populated districts with worsening infrastructure, a 62-year-old retired school teacher says that she hopes her new representative in Parliament will help her sons find jobs.

“The party has done good by us in Ramadan and all religious ceremonies. They also hold massive outlets for cheap clothes and groceries.”

The retired school teacher said she was transported for free from a pickup point to her polling stations by microbuses carrying Nation Future Party logos and was given a meal.

Inside her polling station, while carrying a guide with pictures of candidates to vote for, she was escorted by young party volunteers wearing white shirts reading “go down and vote.”

Despite her sons being “apathetic towards the elections,” she voted “because she wanted to guarantee them a better future.”

A former member of the Nasserist Karama Party said that he and his family were offered bribes in order to vote for the Nation’s Future candidate in Menoufiya.

“They are using the people’s lack of political awareness for their benefit over the masses,” Nasser said, adding “People still think that the member of Parliament is the one who can help them pave the road in their street or remove the litter.”

“They are elected by the people but under the dome [Parliament] they are the enemy of the people, approving the law to justify the imprisonment of thousands as well as the continuous price hikes which only affects the poor,” he added.

However despite the bleak outlook for political pluralism, independent candidate and outspoken critic of the government Ahmed Tantawy is preparing a runoff in December in Kafr Al-Shiekh.

“We the youth who participated in the 2011 revolution have to continue the struggle what we started even if the scene is not very optimistic,” said a campaigner for Tantawy.

“We are not just running against huge amounts of political capital that are distributed in public to influence people to vote, but also against a repressive state that favors candidates who are close to it.”

The campaigner said that the police had stopped a popular conference that the campaign was set to hold in October, citing the COVID-19 concerns. “Nevertheless, the police secure, and members of the Kafr Al-Sheikh governorate attend the conferences of the Nation’s Future.”

Tantawy, who gathered a rare 44,000 votes, is running against five candidates, three of them former police officers. One of them is Mohey Al-Qatan, a former police officer and NDP member who is currently with the Nation’s Future Party.

Ahmed Osmani, 29, a taxi driver, said he was offered EGP 200 in order to vote for Al-Qatan, but he refused and will vote again for Tantawy in the runoff.