Egyp­tians vote again to elect new par­lia­ment

Elec­tions dogged by ap­a­thy

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

CAIRO: Egyp­tians voted yes­ter­day in the sec­ond phase of elec­tions that are meant to re­store par­lia­ment af­ter a more than three-year gap but which crit­ics say have been un­der­mined by wide­spread re­pres­sion. The elec­tions have been hailed by Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah Al-Sisi as a mile­stone on the army’s roadmap to democ­racy but voter turnout has been low, with only a quar­ter of the elec­torate cast­ing bal­lots in the first phase on Oct 18-19.

Sisi supporters won a land­slide in the first leg and are ex­pected to re­peat their per­for­mance on Sun­day and Mon­day when vot­ing takes place in the cap­i­tal Cairo and 12 other prov­inces. Sisi cast his ballot at a girls’ school in Cairo soon af­ter vot­ing opened at 9 am (0700 GMT). State tele­vi­sion once again showed footage of largely empty polling sta­tions. The gov­ern­ment an­nounced it was giv­ing pub­lic sec­tor work­ers half a day off to­day to en­cour­age them to cast their bal­lots.

Many who ab­stained said they felt the polls of­fered lit­tle gen­uine choice in the ab­sence of the main op­po­si­tion Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and other crit­ics and that par­lia­ment would change lit­tle in lives dom­i­nated by the strug­gle to earn a liv­ing. “There is no rea­son to vote, th­ese elec­tions don’t mean any­thing. All th­ese can­di­dates are run­ning so they can get MP perks,” said Has­san, a 21-year-old stu­dent who de­clined to give his full name.

Egypt’s top Mus­lim cleric Sheikh Ahmed al Tayeb, head of Al-Azhar, the cen­tre of Is­lamic learn­ing in the coun­try, likened boy­cotting to dis­obey­ing one’s par­ents, a grave sin in Is­lam. “I urge ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially the youth, to par­tic­i­pate and cast their bal­lots,” Tayeb told jour­nal­ists out­side the polling sta­tion where he cast his vote. “We tell boy­cotters to stop this im­me­di­ately; Egypt is like your mother, boy­cotting is like dis­obey­ing your par­ents.” Egypt’s last par­lia­ment was elected in 2011-12, in the first elec­tion af­ter the pop­u­lar up­ris­ing that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Vot­ing then was marked by long queues and youth­ful ex­cite­ment. The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, long the coun­try’s main op­po­si­tion move­ment, won about half the seats. A court dis­solved that par­lia­ment in mid-2012. A year later, Sisi, then mil­i­tary chief, re­moved Pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi of the Broth­er­hood from power af­ter mass protests against his rule. Egypt’s old­est Is­lamist or­gan­i­sa­tion was banned, de­clared a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion and thou­sands of its mem­bers were jailed. When it ousted Sisi, the army won the back­ing of other po­lit­i­cal groups by promis­ing prompt par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. In­stead, Sisi went on to win a pres­i­den­tial vote in 2014. Par­lia­ment polls will fi­nally be com­pleted this month.

Voter Fatigue

The new par­lia­ment will con­tain 568 elected mem­bers - 448 elected on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis and 120 through win­ner-takes-all lists. Sisi may ap­point up to a fur­ther 28 law­mak­ers. Yes­ter­day and to­day, can­di­dates will be vy­ing for 222 in­di­vid­ual seats and 60 list seats. “For the Love of Egypt”, a loy­al­ist elec­toral al­liance led by for­mer in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer Sameh Seif Elyazal, won all 60 list-based seats con­tested in the first round, which cov­ered Egypt’s sec­ond city of Alexan­dria, the prov­ince of Giza, which in­cludes parts of Cairo west of the Nile, and 12 other prov­inces. — Reuters

CAIRO: Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah Al-Sisi casts his ballot at a polling sta­tion in the He­liopo­lis neigh­bor­hood yes­ter­day. — AFP

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