The cost of playing monopoly: How the Nation’s Future Party has caused rifts among parties in House elections
 
 
Nation’s Future head Abdel Wahab Abdel Razek (left) and deputy Ashraf Rashad - Courtesy: Nation's Future Party Facebook page
 

As the Nation’s Future Party put the finishing touches on its choice for who will stand in House of Representatives elections slated for late October, many were unhappy with that crude process that ensured the state-backed party takes the most seats in the new legislative body. 

For one leader in a party on the national list, the crisis surrounding the management of the elections can be seen in what he describes as the “nationalization of his party” for the benefit of the Nation’s Future. 

That dissatisfaction extended to every party that chose to participate in the elections, including the Republican People’s Party, the main partner of the Nation’s Future on the list. According to a political source with knowledge of the coordination to form the lists, the Republican People’s Party was shocked by the “cartoonish” partnership as much as other coalition parties.

When voters turn up to polls in late October, they will be voting for candidates for 284 seats in the House from the individual system and another 284 from the closed list system. In line with a new law that redrew electoral districts for the House, individual candidates will be elected from 143 districts, down from 205 previously, while there will be four districts for the block-vote, winner-take-all party lists. Parties and independent candidates have the right to run in either the individual or the list system. The president can appoint some members to the House of Representatives, but no more than five percent of the total.

According to various sources, the way security agencies and the Nation’s Future managed preparations for the upcoming elections has not only led to disappointment, but it has sent turmoil roiling through most parties, including Nation’s Future itself. Things got so bad that some parties moved to oust their leadership, while others withdrew from the elections.

Mass resignations at the Republican People’s Party

Some time ago, the informed source says, the Republican People’s Party, a pro-regime party close to one of the sovereign security bodies, sent a preliminary list featuring its suggested candidates to the Nation’s Future Party. In mid-September, however, the Nation’s Future returned a list featuring 46 candidates to the Republican People’s Party leadership, who were shocked to find that only eight names on the list were active members of their party. All the other names on the list came from the Nation’s Future.

“The agreement between the two parties was that the composition of the lists would be carried out by the Nation’s Future, with the Republican People’s Party leaders giving the sign-off, but not in this crude manner,” the source tells Mada Masr.

The source explained that the electoral lists have been managed in the same way. Only two or three names put forth by the Republican People’s Party were accepted on the lists. 

In the recent August Senate elections, the Republican People’s Party was picked to serve as the understudy of Nation’s Future. Sources from several parties who took part in the list told Mada Masr at the time that the National Security Agency would use the results of the Senate elections to determine the parties’  respective roles in the upcoming House elections.

“This fake majority is unacceptable, and it resulted in serious objections within the party,” the source says.

In objection to their marginalized role at the hands of the Nation’s Future, Republican People’s Party members resigned en masse, according to the source. When Hazem Omar, the president of the party, learned of the exodus, “he asked them to remain calm, which was not a solution,” the source says. 

According to the source, Omar tried to contain the crisis within the party by holding a meeting on September 22 at the headquarters of the Nationalist Progressive Unionist Party. But a security agency asked him to cancel the meeting in fear that it would lead to a decision to withdraw from the list, as the Wafd Party had already done. Such a withdrawal would have attracted public attention to the mechanisms with which lists are composed.

The same source says that security agencies sent reports to the president’s office with warnings about holding elections in such a manner, but they fell on deaf ears.

The anticipated For the Sake of Egypt national list managed includes 12 parties: the Nation’s Future Party, the Republican People’s Party, the Wafd Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Modern Egypt Party, the Nationalist Progressive Unionist Party, the Conference Party, the Reform and Development Party, the Egyptian Freedom Party, the Justice Party, and the Will of a Generation Party — in addition to the Youth Coordination of Parties Youth and Politicians.

However, rebellion has already broken out inside the Wafd Party, which prompted the party’s higher committee to send an official letter to the National Elections Authority saying that the party would not take part in the electoral list. When asked about what their superiors would do if the party takes part in the list with the approval of party President Bahaa Abou Shoqa  alone, a Wafd Party leader told Mada Masr: “We will submit a lawsuit against the electoral list.”

Wafd Party anger chases the electoral list with appeals

Rebellion in the Wafd Party began when its share in the electoral list became known. At first, the party was penciled in for only 19 seats on the For the Sake of Egypt list. Among these 19, the party’s president put his own daughter’s name, Amira Abou Shoqa, and other non-party members.

Wafd Party Vice President MP Mohamed Abdo took to TV in September to announce the party had been officially given 13 seats for women and six seats for men on the national list. However, eight of the women’s seats and four of the men’s are actually candidates from the Nation’s Future Party, Abdo said.

“To this moment, Wafd Party President Bahaa Abou Shoqa has not sought our opinion on the candidates. As vice president, I don’t know the names of the Wafd Party’s candidates. Are we expected to agree to something we don’t know?”

In response to Nation’s Future and Abou Shoqa’s decision, the Wafd Party supreme committee convened on September 19 to approve a number of measures. First among the decisions according to Abdo’s television address, the committee withdrew Abou Shoqa’s mandate to negotiate with parties taking part in the national electoral list. The Wafd Party would also withdraw the names of party members from the For the Sake of Egypt list, as they had not been presented to the supreme committee, and would notify the National Elections Authority and leaders of political parties taking part in the national list that the Wafd Party would no longer run on the For the Sake of Egypt list. 

The measures passed the supreme committee with a majority of votes, and the members resolved to pull out of the elections completely, placing the responsibility on Abou Shoqa’s shoulders. 

“There isn’t any fairness or transparency in us running in these elections. We hoped to be part of the coalition, but we left it up to the Wafd Party’s president until he put us in a bind,” Abdo said. 

The party held successive meetings that ran through the weekend of September 19 and lasted until the beginning of the next week. During these meetings, the party approved Abou Shoqa’s call to hold early elections for party president – the timing of which would be determined within a month – and his call on the Wafd Party’s supreme committee to vote on the timing. But they refused his suggestion to hold the elections in December.

Many Wafd Party sources that Mada Masr spoke to said that Abou Shoqa’s suggestion to postpone the party elections until next December amounts to a desire to ensure that the parliamentary elections are over and that his daughter’s seat is secure.

The party also decided to withdraw the mandate previously given to the party president, which allowed him to dismiss and oust members without an investigation. Now, dismissals will be in accordance with the party’s by-laws. Additionally, the supreme committee vowed to form a media committee charged with responding to false statements.

But these decisions were not adhered to by all. Political and party sources tell Mada Masr that several Wafd candidates prepared their paperwork and applied to the For the Sake of Egypt list under the party’s name.

Abou Shoqa also released a series of statements last week, which he was keen to have signed by most members of the party’s supreme committee. In these statements, he stressed that the Wafd Party is still taking part in the parliamentary elections on the national list.

In one statement, he said that he met with Wafd Party General Secretary Fouad Badrawi, and the two discussed means to confront the current crisis in the party. The two agreed on the importance of maintaining the Wafd’s stability given everything the nation is facing and for the sake of Egypt’s greater interests. They also stressed that the party will take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections through the national list. Wafd Party Vice President Khaled Qandil also attended the meeting.

Wafd Party MP Mahmoud Atteya announced through his Facebook page that he will not run in the House elections in the district of Shubra al-Kheima, which he currently represents until the end of the legislative session on January 9, 2021. 

“It is to protect my health, money and company. It is in solidarity with my parliamentarian brothers and colleagues and the members of the Wafd Party’s higher committee, most of whom object to party members running in this year’s elections for reasons that have to do with the party. Our full support goes to the Egyptian state.”

Youth Coordination of Parties and Politicians stirs anger

Twenty-six members of the Youth Coordination of Parties and Politicians are running on the For the Sake of Egypt list, most notably current MPs and Nation’s Future Party candidates Mahmoud Badr, Tarek al-Khouly, and Ahmed Zidan and independents Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Amira al-Aidy, May Karam Gabr, Ahmed Ramzy and Ghada Ali, in addition to three candidates from the Presidential Youth Program, as well as Amira Saber of the Socialist Democratic Party, Alaa Essam and Marcel Khalifa of the Nationalist Progressive Unionist Party, and Ahmed Maklad of the Conference Party.

The significantly greater share of seats granted to Youth Coordination running stirred up anger among many parties participating in the Nation’s Future-managed list, especially those that have funded the coordination and mobilized support for it within their districts. The number of seats given to the coordination far exceeds what most parties received, despite the big money they spend.

According to sources with knowledge of the arrangements made for the list, members of the Youth Coordination will be spread out across Egypt’s governorates. The sources add that two or three candidates from outside the governorates will feature on their electoral lists.

Disputes erupt in the Nation’s Future Party: Aboul Enein isn’t alone

Disputes also flared up inside the Nation’s Future Party itself, due to internal conflicts that some sources have interpreted as conflicts between different wings within the National Security Agency. The conflict resulted in a crisis within Giza’s electoral list from which current MP and vice president of the party’s parliamentary affairs committee Mohamed Aboul Enein was removed. 

Aboul Enein announced that he will be running independently, saying in a statement on his Facebook page: “I prayed for God’s guidance and decided to run in the 2021 parliamentary elections in the Giza-Dokki-Agouza district for an individual seat as an independent.”

Aboul Enein’s announcement that he will be running as independent came just 48 hours after an earlier statement in which he denied social media reports that he resigned from the Nation’s Future Party, which he denounced as nothing but a rumor.

He stressed that he is working in his capacity as the party’s VP during the critical time before the party stands in the House elections, urging anything published or circulated to be verified.

Financial considerations may be behind Aboul Enein’s removal from the list. According to several sources, Aboul Enein was asked to give financial support in the millions, which he refused on the grounds that he had already spent significant sums on the party and during the Senate elections since his appointment. Businessman and Smouha Club President MP Farrag Amer faced the same predicament, the sources add, which was a factor in his decision not to run even though he was prepared to run through the Alexandria list.

The party was also hit by resignations in its secretariats in Cairo and Giza, as well as across the country where many leaders announced their resignations.

The resignations even included the party’s current MPs, many of whom decided to resign and run in the elections for individual seats as independents after the party abandoned them in its nominations for the next House.

Of the current Nation’s Future MPs, somewhere between 110 and 150 have been put forward on the For the Sake of Egypt list that was submitted before the September 26 deadline. 

The candidacy registration process began on September 17 and was open daily from 9 am to 5 pm until September 26. According to the election authority’s timeline, phase one of the elections abroad will take place on October 21, 22 and 23. Phase one of the elections in Egypt will take place on October 24 and 25. The results of the first round of elections in phase one will be announced and published in the Official Gazette on Sunday, November 1, 2020.

Runoff elections for phase one will be held abroad on November 21, 22 and 23 and in Egypt on November 23 and 24. Results will be announced no later than November 30.

Phase two will see governorate elections held abroad on November 4, 5 and 6 and in Egypt on November 7 and 8. The results of phase two will be announced on Sunday, November 15. If a runoff is needed, elections will be held abroad on December 5, 6 and 7 and in Egypt on December 7 and 8.

Competing lists

For the Sake of Egypt is not without competition,  

After months of preparation, the Conservatives Party – which was removed from the national list – announced its own list under the slogan “the Choice.” In addition to the Conservatives Party, the Choice list features the Unity Party headed by Hossam al-Badrawi, the Arab Nasserist Party headed by Sayed Abdel Ghani, the Guardians of the Revolution Party headed by Magdy al-Sherif, and the Independent’s Coalition headed by Hisham Anani.

In announcing the Choice list, the Conservatives Party said that its decision to bring together the coalition would allow it to become the people’s voice and the nation’s conscious, build a modern, civil and democratic state under the umbrella of the Egyptian Constitution, which the people overwhelmingly voted for in 2014; and promote a multi-party political system.

Former governor of Alexandria Lieutenant General Tarek al-Mahdi also announced on September 2 the establishment of the Patriotic Current. At the inauguration conference, he announced that it intends to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections. And it intends to put forth “patriotic elements” who have the desire and intent to represent their constituencies in an inclusive parliamentary formula in order to fulfill a role in maintaining social peace and reinforcing responsible participation. He noted that the Patriotic Current will take part in the elections with 25 parties and 300 public figures.

In his announcement, Mahdi said that the Egyptian National Coalition will be an on-going political coalition. He noted that members of the Patriotic Current are open to all parties and civil society organizations, as well as all talents and leaders.

According to informed political sources, Mahdi was discussing with a group of active politicians the possibility of forming a competing electoral list up until the September 26 deadline. But everyone is worried about the security of making such a move given security bodies’ rash change of direction at times, the sources say.

While Mahdi did submit a list for the Patriotic Current, the National Elections Authority rejected his application, stating that Mahdi’s financial disclosure form did not mention his wife’s information. The same technicality applied to two other members on the Patriotic Current, with a third being ruled ineligible for failing to disclose his military service. 

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