Hani al-Gamal – Cairo
The first phase of the elections of the House of Deputies (the lower chamber of parliament) in Egypt ended on 25 October, following two days of voting.
Voters in 14 out of Egypt’s 27 provinces voted to select candidates running as independents and within party lists in these provinces. Over 33 million Egyptians were registered to vote in 147 polling stations in the 14 provinces. Egyptian authorities took special security measures and deployed tens of thousands of policemen and army troops outside the polling stations.
This is the second time the elections of the House of Deputies has been held in Egypt, six years after this chamber of the Egyptian parliament was instituted in the constitution. The election law specifies 284 seats in the house for independents and an equal number of seats for the political parties. The Egyptian president also has the right to appoint an additional 28 members.
The same law specifies 25% of the seats of the house for women, which aims officially to empower the nation’s women, many of whom were at the forefront of the political changes that took place in Egypt since the 2011 uprising against longstanding president Hosni Mubarak. Around 36 political parties participated in the elections by fielding candidates, including independent ones. Some political analysts expressed the view that the elections would help political parties restructure themselves to reach out more to the people on the streets.
“The elections give the political parties experience in communicating directly with ordinary people on the streets and winning them over”, said Ali Zeidan, a senior official of the secularist Conference Party. He stated that this was important, especially following the 2011 and 2013 revolutions.
Egypt has a total of 104 political parties, most of which emerged after the 2011 revolution. The election law specifies four constituencies for the political parties. The political parties hope that they will be represented sufficiently in the coming legislature. Most of the parties failed to win seats in the outgoing parliament, which attested to the hard work the nation’s political parties needed to do to make themselves popular among ordinary Egyptians. The second phase of the elections will take place on November 7 and 8 in Egypt’s remaining 13 provinces.
The House of Deputies elections come only a few weeks after Egypt held the elections of its Senate (upper house of parliament), for the first time since 2014. The Senate was disbanded in June 2013 and then cancelled out in the 2014 constitution. It was reinstituted in the constitution only in 2019 when Egyptians approved a package of constitutional amendments that also introduced changes to the duration of the presidential terms.
Millions of voters participated in the first phase of the elections on 24-25 October. The House of Deputies elections reflect moments when there is a fierce rivalry between not just the political parties but Egypt’s different tribes and families. Some analysts have also suggested that the elections will assist with empowering the nation’s youth.
“This is manifest in the fact that the lists of most of the political parties participating in the elections contain a large number of youth candidates”, noted Yasser Kaseb, an independent parliamentary affairs consultant. He expressed the view that political parties also try to change political realities by working to empower some of the social segments that were marginalized in the past, including women, youth and Christians. “The political parties are laying a stress on these segments of society”, he concluded.