The deadline for submitting applications for candidacy in Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections has now passed, and the shape of the coming competition is coming into focus.
On October 21, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, as a member of the Democratic Alliance coalition, announced the coalition’s lists of candidates in 20 of 27 governates. (After numerous defections, today the Alliance includes few parties other than the Brotherhood.) The published names include only those candidates running for the proportional-representation seats and not individual seats. Under current electoral law, in one third of the seats the smallest districts candidates are to be directly elected, while in the remaining two-thirds, elections are to be determined by a proportional party-list competition.
First, it bears noting that the Muslim Brotherhood broke its declared promise to run for only 50 percent of the seats. This came as no real surprise, but the size of the breach is remarkable. The Brotherhood has declared that it will run for 90 percent of the individual seats and 70 percent of the party-lists seats. This means that the Brotherhood is running for nearly 77 percent of the total seats in parliament.
The names submitted are also revealing. While there are two Christian candidates offered on the Alliance lists by a Nasserite party and El Ghad party, the Brotherhood has not offered a single Christian candidate of its own. Observers expected the Brotherhood to include at least a few token Christian candidates put at the end of the lists where there would be no chance of their actually taking any seats for the sake of reaping big dividends in Western media spin. The decision not to field a single Christian candidate reflects the pressure the Brotherhood is feeling from its more radical competitors, the Salafis. The Brotherhood is less fearful of the “liberal” parties than the very real threat posed by the Salafis’ Islamist Alliance.
Furthermore, while each of the Brotherhood party’s lists is headed by a distinguished Brotherhood leader, in most cases a former member of parliament, the names of the most famous Brotherhood members are absent. Most of them, it seems, will be running for the individual seats where name recognition counts a shrewd strategy for maximizing electoral gains.
Finally, it is important to note the Brotherhood’s high focus on the Shura Council (Egypt’s higher chamber). While the Shura Council has few legislative powers, for these elections, its role is extremely important. It will be equally responsible with the lower chamber for selecting the members of the constitutional drafting committee a realization that seems to have escaped most of the other political parties; other than the Brotherhood, few are fielding Shura Council candidates.