Amidst a boycott of the opposition, the significant absence of Egyptians, and neglect on social media; Egypt concluded on Sunday the first phase of the elections to the House of Representatives, which witnessed widespread operations to buy votes, and attempts to mobilise voters through intimidation and enticement. The Egyptian authorities organise elections in two phases. The first took place 24 and 25 October in 14 provinces, including Giza and Alexandria. The second phase is scheduled to occur on the 7 and 8 November in 13 governorates, including Cairo.
Like the senate elections last month, the Nation’s Future Party (NFP) dominates the seats in the House of Representatives, whether through the National List, which includes the most prominent supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime, or through the security services’ interventions to recommend candidates and exclude others. The spread of vote-buying and the widespread use of al-Sisi’s money prompted the Egypt’s Call list to seek help from the president of the republic and submit a report to the National Elections Authority.
A statement attributed to the list, which competes with the NFP’s list, said, “We are sorry and pained to raise a serious matter to your sovereignty. There is an unprecedented approach and manipulation in many committees, fraud in favour of the national list, the blackening of electoral cards on the lists, marked complicity within the committees, and explicit instructions to vote for the NFP list.” The statement said, “What prompted us to this appeal is not a concern for chairs or a search for positions, but rather a fear of eliminating the hope of Egyptians for political change through free and fair elections, which pushes everyone into a dark tunnel.”
The exciting thing is that the talk about political money and security control in the elections did not come as usual from the opposition at home or abroad. Instead, the days leading up to the polls witnessed criticism from the regime’s supporters, such as the speech of Mortada Mansour, President of Zamalek Club, and candidate for parliament, about the millions of pounds paid by the candidates.
Regarding the security control over the elections, Doaa Khalifa, a former official in the Tamarod Movement, spoke about the role of Officer Ahmed Shaban, director of the office of Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel, in this regard. The broadcaster, who is close to the security services, Abdul Rahim Ali, also criticised political money in the elections. Two days later, he was exposed to an abusive audio leakage. Activists said that the leak is a punishment for him after he dared to criticise the elections. The Associated Press suggested that the current elections would lead to the House of Representatives without opposition, where it is dominated by al-Sisi’s supporters, which gives more legitimacy to the Egyptian president’s policies and gives the former military general almost unchecked powers, according to the agency’s description.
About 63 million voters, out of a population of 100 million people, were invited to vote in these elections, to choose 568 out of 596 members in the House of Representatives, with al-Sisi appointing the remaining representatives. More than 4,000 candidates compete in the elections for 284 seats out of 568 by the single system, and eight lists are competing for 284 seats in the party-list system.
The Egyptian regime is afraid of a repeat of the embarrassment it was exposed to last month, following the Egyptians’ reluctance to vote in the senate elections. Despite the widespread disregard for the electoral process on social media, Twitter users circulated videos showing vote-buying in front of the electoral committees. An influential video clip showed a shabbily-dressed woman who received EGP 50 for selling her vote to the NFP candidate run with happiness towards her son, hugging him with tears.
Egyptian journalist, Abdel Wahab Shaaban commented on that clip: “I just want you to stop at a woman in the middle of the video after she received the money, she ran to her young child, embraced him tightly, she kissed him and gave him the money he wanted… a tragic scene.” Activists and politicians condemned the spread of political money in the elections to control the electoral process and push citizens to participate and vote for specific candidates. The clips showed some candidates’ attempts to prevent the sale of votes and stop the distribution of money and vouchers.
Supporters of the Egyptian regime attacked the candidate Mai Mahmoud for photographing the practices of vote-buying, considering that what she published was an insult to the Egyptian people.