Note: This is an archived project; no significant changes have been made since parliament was seated in January 2016.
In the fall of 2015, Egyptians went to the polls for the eighth time since the 2011 uprising that removed former President Hosni Mubarak. The country—which has been without a recognized legislative body since June 2012—was voting in a multi-stage election to choose a new House of Representatives. Egyptians elected what will be a highly fragmented body, as independent candidates won a majority of the seats and the winningest party (the Free Egyptians Party) won less than 11 percent of seats. The coalition that swept the party-list vote was comprised primarily of independents, not parties, and does not have a defining ideology.
Candidates for the new parliament contested 448 individual seats (in 205 districts, most of which were multi-seat constituencies) and 120 seats that were allocated to party coalitions. Somewhat unusually, the party-list seats were awarded on a winner-take-all basis, rather than based on proportional results. Both individual and party seats were contested in a two-day round of initial voting; if candidates or lists failed to collect over half of all votes in their districts, a two-day runoff round was held a week later. Voting was split into two phases, with half of Egypt’s provinces voting October 17 through October 28, and the other half voting November 21 through December 2. Officials put overall turnout across both phases at 28.3 percent of eligible voters. President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi is permitted to appoint up to 28 individuals to the parliament, which is expected to be seated on December 28.
The winner-take-all structure of the party-list seats led a single list of pro-government parties and candidates, the “For the Love of Egypt” coalition, to sweep all 120 such seats, which were divided among parties and candidates on the group’s lists. The list was coordinated by Sameh Seif al-Yazal, a former military officer who recruited both parties and independent candidates to join his coalition.
Candidates unaffiliated with political parties—often businessmen, heads of influential families, or connected with the security establishment or Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP, formally banned from participating as a party in the election)—won 55 percent of individual seats; these and most other winning candidates all have professed support for the current government. Many voters expressed their desire for a parliament to support, rather than check, the president’s power, ostensibly leading the country to stability and thence prosperity. In many races, candidates struggled to differentiate themselves from their opponents, and local contests hinged more on turning out the vote than on policy differences.
In keeping with the Egyptian government’s decision to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)—which had formed the largest bloc in the 2011-12 parliament and had been the party of former President Muhammad Morsi—was banned from elections. The group was viewed as so politically toxic that membership in the Brotherhood was used as a common, if absurd, charge traded between opposing candidates. One voter admitted, “To be honest, I have not read much about the list I voted for today, but… I know they are not part of the Muslim Brotherhood.” (Many voters were similarly ill-informed about policies in the 2011 elections.) Several other Islamist political parties that supported the Brotherhood boycotted in protest of the elections. The Nour Party, a Salafist group which came second in the 2011 parliamentary elections, contested seats across the country, but won only 11.
The most successful parties had all pledged their support to the current government of President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, while expressing various ideas for modest reform. The party that won the most seats, the Free Egyptians Party (FEP), was broadly seen as promoting business-friendly policies and some human rights reforms, in line with their founder, billionaire Naguib Sawiris. The For the Love of Egypt coalition included the FEP (eight of the 120 seats on the list), Nation’s Future (eight seats), Wafd (eight), Protectors of the Nation (eight), Conference (two), Reform and Development (two), Modern Egypt (one), Freedom (one), Arabic Popular Movement (one), and Conservative (one) Parties, along with eighty independent candidates who joined the coalition. The Nation’s Future Party, led by 24-year-old Muhammad Badran, was the surprise of the election, winning the second-greatest number of seats overall. Badran launched the group as a youth movement to support Sisi and the post-Morsi transition, and formally incorporated the party in July 2014. In the current elections, Nation’s Future—along with many other parties—ran candidates with connections to Mubarak’s NDP.
Several political parties, notably the Dostour (or Constitution) and Strong Egypt Parties, boycotted the polls, protesting what they saw as an unfair process and ongoing human rights violations by the current government.
The parliament is expected to be seated by the end of 2015.
In Phase I of the elections, residents of the West Delta and Upper Egypt regions voted. The provinces that voted as part of those regions were:
- Beni Suef
- New Valley
- Red Sea
Turnout was low, with just 26.5 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, according to the High Elections Commission. (Some 54 percent of voters participated in the 2011 People’s Assembly elections.) Egypt’s foreign ministry criticized news reports of low turnout on the first day of voting, saying that such reporting demonstrated a “lack of credibility.” On the second day of voting, the government gave civil servants a half-day off to vote.
The Nour Party pinned its hopes on this phase of the elections, as the party had done well in Alexandria and other parts of Egypt’s northwest in 2011. This year, however, they did not do as well, failing even to advance to runoffs in several seats they were expected to win. In Matruh, another Nour stronghold, local sentiment appeared to have turned against the party, with Islamists upset at Nour’s betrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood and the rest of the population strongly anti-Islamist. The Nour Party formed its own party lists in the West Delta (which included Alexandria and Matruh) and Cairo constituencies, but won neither.
For the Love of Egypt won in both districts during this phase of the election, taking all 60 seats, and the parties that were successful overall were also successful in Phase I.
In Phase II of the elections, residents of the East Delta and Upper Egypt regions voted. The provinces that voted as part of those regions were:
- Kafr al-Sheikh
- North Sinai
- Port Said
- South Sinai
Turnout in the first round of Phase II was higher than in Phase I, with 29.8 percent of eligible citizens casting votes. Cairo’s participation rate was particularly low, and fewer than one in five eligible voters turned out.
As they did in Phase I, the For the Love of Egypt coalition won in both party-list districts, taking the remaining 60 party-list seats. There were no significant splits in party performance between the phases.
Violence during the Elections
The most egregious acts of violence during the voting were an attack on a hotel housing election officials that killed seven people and the assassination of a Nour Party candidate, both in North Sinai. Mustafa Abdel Rahman, a local Nour official and candidate for parliament, was shot dead by assailants on a motorbike outside his home in Arish in broad daylight while Phase I voting was ongoing. After the murder, five candidates—including those from the Karama Party—withdrew from North Sinai contests, which were held during voting in Phase II. On November 24, terrorists attacked the Swiss Inn Resort in Arish, killing seven people, including a judge. The hotel was hosting several officials who were monitoring local voting.
Another Nour Party candidate was hospitalized due to an attack in Gharbiya, and there were other reports of intimidation against the Nour Party. There were three recorded instances of Coptic Christians being intimidated or assaulted at polling places. There were no reported arrests, but in at least one instance security forces enabled Copts to cast their votes. There were several fights in and around polling stations, none of which escalated into serious violence. A bomb was defused near a polling place in Fayoum.
Despite the incidents mentioned above, the overall rate of terror attacks did not appear to be influenced by the ongoing elections. Notably, during the period between Phase I and II, headlines were dominated by the Metrojet Flight 9268 crash while en route from Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, to St. Petersburg, Russia. Wilayat Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack as a reprisal for Russian acts of aggression in Syria; the group made no mention of elections in this (or any other) attack.
Buying Votes and Other Violations
Vote buying was widely reported, with voters reportedly selling their choices for as much as one thousand Egyptian pounds (LE) and, in some cases, campaign workers openly bidding for voters’ support in front of polling places. Not all bribes were monetary, as tramadol, hashish, oil, sugar, rice, fish, chicken, meat, potatoes, juice, Viagra, hot lunches, and women’s clothing were all reported to have been exchanged for votes. In Assiut, the going rate for delivering a car with three voters was LE400. As it became clear throughout the elections period that vote-buying was not going to be stopped by authorities, the price of votes apparently increased and even resulted in open bidding.
There were widespread reports of violations of Egyptian campaign law, which forbid campaigning the day before the election and during voting. The distribution of campaign literature inside polling places—to say nothing of the vote-buying right outside—was a common occurrence. Less visibly, the elections faced some logistical challenges, as several polling places opened late or closed early, with some complaints about how ballot boxes were stored overnight.
Voting in four Phase I districts, totaling 13 seats, was postponed and re-run in early December. In Damanhour, in the governorate of Beheira, Mabrouk Zaeetar was on the ballot despite being imprisoned in connection with the death of a neighbor. The other three districts—two in Beni Suef and one in Alexandria—similarly involved late disqualifications, though for less colorful reasons.
Violence against Journalists
The Journalists Against Torture Observatory, an activist group, documented 104 violations against journalists during voting. While mainly incidents of obstruction, the body documented one arrest, eight detentions, five assaults, and four incidents where journalists had their possessions confiscated.
Minorities and Quotas
The election law required lists to have quotas of women and Christians. Christians won 36 seats overall, including 24 list seats, and women won 74 seats, 56 of which came from the lists. There were no candidates who openly identified as any religion other than Sunni Muslim or Christian.
Abdel Rahim Ali, an independent deputy from Dokki and Agouza in Giza, hosts a television show called “The Black Box” and has used that platform to discredit prominent activists and opposition figures linked to the 2011 uprising by broadcasting private phone calls. Ali also heads a research center on Islamist movements and is an editor-in-chief of al-Bawaba newspaper. He is considered close to ex-Mubarak’s Prime Minister and former post-2011 presidential candidate, Ahmed Shafiq.
Tawfiq Okasha is a Daqhalia representative and is the owner of satellite channel al-Faraeen. Okasha used the channel—centered on himself—as a platform to denounce the 2011 uprising and the Muslim Brotherhood alike.
Mortada Mansour, the president of the Zamalek Sports Club, is an outspoken critic of protesters who won a seat. Mortada Mansour has a history of using colorful language to denounce political opponents, and briefly announced a campaign to challenge Sisi for the presidency in 2014 before withdrawing. His son, Ahmed Mortada Mansour, also won a seat.
Mustafa Bakry is known for many controversial statements, from verbal attacks on revolutionaries to threats against Americans in Egypt. He is the editor-in-chief of the tabloid el-Osbooa and hosts a program on the Sada el-Balad television channel. He was a member of the NDP’s influential policies committee led by Gamal Mubarak, was twice a member of parliament under Mubarak, and won a seat in the 2011 parliament
Sahar Talaat Mustafa and Muhammad Farag Amer, businesspeople from Alexandria with ties to the NDP, both won seats, but other people from similar backgrounds, notably Ahmed Ezz, were disqualified from the election.
Before voting started, then-Transitional Justice Minister Ibrahim al-Heneidy appointed a former officer from the military intelligence, Major General Khaled al-Sadr, as secretary-general of parliament. This position—a nonvoting officer who controls various administrative and parliamentary procedures—had traditionally been filled by a member of the judiciary, and Sadr was the first military officer to serve in that role. In early December, however, Sadr resigned the post amid growing criticism from judicial bodies, and the State Council—a judicial body—put forward Ahmed Saad, a judge, as the new appointee, and he was subsequently confirmed by Egypt’s cabinet.
Sisi is permitted to appoint 28 additional members to parliament, comprising five percent of the new House of Representatives. Several prominent names—notably head of the Supreme Constitutional Court and former interim President Adly Mansour, former foreign minister and head of the Arab League Amr Moussa, and current Minister of Justice Ahmed al-Zind—have been mentioned as possible appointees.
Sameh Seif al-Yazal, the former military officer who coordinated the For the Love of Egypt electoral lists, has invited other individuals and parties to join his candidates in parliament. The coalition, tentatively named “Supporting the Egyptian State,” has reportedly convinced some 400 members of parliament to join the alliance. Seif al-Yazal, Mansour, Moussa, and Zind are all being tabbed as potential speakers of parliament, though Mansour reportedly prefers to stay in his current position with the constitutional court
In its first fifteen days of session, parliament is required by the constitution to review and approve all decrees issued by Sisi and Mansour under the new constitution. The parliament is also required, in its first session, to pass a bill regulating the construction of churches, long a contentious issue.
*This report was published directly after the final round of elections in December 2015, and all party affiliations and numbers represent the information available at that time. The report thus does not include any subsequent changes to the parliamentary roster or reflect the official government list of party affiliations that was made available in January 2016. The Egypt Election Map, however, is a dynamic tool and contains the latest verifiable information about parliamentarians, parties, and coalitions. The map can be found under the Electoral Maps tab of this site.
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