Elections Monitor: Discredited run-offs?

Five hundred and sixty-six candidates competed for 283 seats in Monday’s run-offs, reports state-run Al-Ahram. The state flagship's front-page coverage highlights “new gains for the opposition,” citing 11 Wafd and Muslim Brotherhood candidates who defied party directives to boycott, persisting with their parliamentary bids.

“The boycott is a lie,” reads the front-page headline in state-run Al-Gomhorriya. Similarly, state-run Rose al-Youssef draws attention to “significant participation” by the Wafd Party.

Privately-owned and opposition newspapers, however, deliver a different take on the run-off polls. They emphasize low voter turnout and a Supreme Administrative Court decision to support the cancellation of election results in all districts where results were deemed void by lower courts. 

In an apparent attempt to buttress the credibility of the run-offs, several accounts in state-run dailies are keen to demonstrate the participation of opposition parties in Monday’s run-offs. State-run Al-Gomhorriya reports that Ahmed Ezz, National Democratic Party (NDP) secretary of organization, stated that there was no boycott and that the opposition participated.

Mohamed Kamal, a member of the NDP policies committee, stressed that the NDP was not competing against itself, given the participation of independent candidates, Al-Gomhorriya adds. Ali Eddin Helal, NDP secretary of the media, asserted that the NDP considers the other parties to be “partners in the practice of democracy,” according to the opposition paper's coverage. Al-Ahram reports that three Muslim Brotherhood candidates challenged the movement’s decision to withdraw from the run-offs. The dissenting candidates were Magdi Ashour in the Nozha district, Ossama Soliman in Damanhour, and Khalid al-Azhari Haram.

Putting matters in a different perspective, privately-owned Al-Shorouk reports that the Organization for the Promotion of Societal Participation said the “the government is looking for the opposition…even if forcibly.” The organization cites the fact that NDP candidate in the district of Aga, Adbul Fattah Diab, withdrew from the race following attempts to fill out ballots in favor of Tagammu Party candidate Raafat Seif.

A report by the Egyptian Alliance to Support Democracy documents that the NDP gave up the seat contested by NDP candidate Fouad al-Liwaa in Hadaek al-Kobba to support Tagammu party candidate Adul Aziz Shaaban, reports Al-Wafd, paper of the liberal Wafd Party.  In Gharbiya Governorate, Al-Wafd reports that several ballot boxes were stuffed in favor of other parties’ candidates at the behest of the NDP. 

In contrast, “Ezz’ People’s Assembly…Void,” reads the front-page headline of privately-owned Al-Dostour. The report stresses the historic nature of the Supreme Administrative Court ruling, according to which the People’s Assembly cannot adjudicate the legality of its own members. The ruling establishes a clear boundary between the legislature and the judiciary and sets the stage for a People’s Assembly that is subject to law rather its own whims, adds the report.

Judge Adel Farghali, head of the legislative branch of the State Council, and former head of the courts of administrative justice, noted that the legal status of members of the lower house of parliament is an issue that falls under the jurisdiction of the courts of administrative justice and not to the political body itself, according to Al-Dostour. The publication reports that the decision has triggered calls among opposition parties to demand the dissolution of the 2010 People’s Assembly.

Notably, on the eve of Sunday’s run-offs, administrative justice courts in the governorates of Menoufiya, Qalyoubia, Kafr al-Sheikh and Damietta issued rulings canceling elections in 28 districts and halting run-offs, reports privately-owned Al-Shorouk. For the second time in one week, the court of administrative justice in Qalyoubia issued a ruling on Sunday to nullify the results of the 2010 People’s Assembly elections and run-offs in all of the governorate’s districts, the opposition paper reports.

Finally, independent and opposition newspapers highlight the extremely low voter turnout rate in Sunday’s run-offs. “Run-offs Without Voters,” reads Al-Shorouk’s front-page headline. In Shubra al-Khaima’s first and second districts, polling stations seemed almost free of voters after supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and independent candidates refrained from voting, the article says.

In Gharbiya Governorate, no more than 20 percent of those who participated in last Sunday’s poll turned out to vote in the run-offs, in part because voters lost faith in the electoral process and in part due to the withdrawal of the Wafd Party and the Brotherhood, according to Al-Wafd. In Helwan, only a handful of voters turned out, adds Al-Wafd.

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