Countdown to elections

Egyptians protesting against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the military trials of civilian activists
Egyptians protesting against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the military trials of civilian activists (Maggie Osama/Flickr)

Protesters occupied Cairo's Tahrir Square on 18 November to demand that the ruling military hand power to a civilian government.



With Egypt's first post-revolution parliamentary poll set for 28 November, demonstrators from a range of political backgrounds have condemned a government document that declared the military the guardian of "constitutional legitimacy", and shields the military budget from parliamentary oversight, according to media reports.



The protests have united both the Muslim Brotherhood and secular parties, who are demanding more control over the constitution to be drafted by the new parliament.



“The fact that the next parliament will be responsible for writing the new constitution for this country makes these elections all the more important,” Emad Gad, an expert from local think-tank Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told IRIN. “This constitution will decide the nature of the Egyptian state for, maybe, decades to come.”



With about 50 political parties and more than 8,000 independent candidates competing for seats in both houses of the Egyptian Parliament (the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council), the election is by far Egypt’s largest exercise in democracy in history.



Islamist parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned for years under former president Hosni Mubarak, will be competing against liberal, socialist and youth revolutionary parties for more than 50 million voters.



Hopes



Egypt’s thinkers pin their hopes on the next elections to usher in a parliament that represents all the nation’s political powers and political realities created by the revolution that ousted Mubarak in January. They say a parliament representative of all the nation’s political powers would create the constitution everybody aspires to.



“This will also contribute to presenting us with a constitution that expresses the desires of everybody in this society without discrimination,” said Abdullah Al Senawi, a columnist. “If this does not happen, there will be real threats to this country’s social and political peace.”



A recent survey by Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies showed that 59 percent of Egyptians hoped the elections would bring about a long-awaited transition to democracy.



However, many Egyptians express scepticism over the ability of the government and the army to deliver free and fair elections 10 months after Egypt’s security system crumbled in the face of deadly clashes between anti-Mubarak demonstrators and policemen.  



Warnings



Saad Al Zunt, who heads the local think-tank, Centre for Political Studies, warns that the polls could be bloody. He cites deteriorating security conditions and concerns over the readiness of the police to safeguard the elections.



“Some Egyptians have hopes that the elections will happen in peace,” Al Zunt said. “To them I say this may not happen.”



He expected the tempo of sectarian clashes, confrontations between the people and the army, and terrorist attacks to escalate both before and during the elections.



As Al Zunt spoke, thugs attacked hundreds of Christian demonstrators on their way to the Cairo neighbourhood of Shubra, injuring 10 in a new sectarian clash almost a month after fights between thousands of Christian demonstrators and military policemen led to the deaths of about 27 demonstrators and the injury of hundreds.



Other experts warned of post-election frustration if members of Mubarak’s disbanded National Democratic Party managed to win a large number of seats in parliament.



Revolutionaries have failed to secure a court ruling banning members of Mubarak’s former ruling party from running in the elections.



“This can be very disappointing to everybody,” said Gamal Zahran, a political science professor at Suez Canal University and a former legislator, who decided to boycott the polls. “The new revolutionary parties have not got time enough to introduce themselves to the public, which makes for slim success chances for them in the elections.”



[Read more: Voicing election hopes in Egypt]



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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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