In Minya, election campaigns wear religious cloak

Both Islamic and secular candidates in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Minya have shown heightened interest in using religion as a tool for electoral campaigning ahead of the third round of the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

Banners showing the names of liberal Wafd Party candidates did not include a photo for female candidate Samah Hassan.

In the previous two rounds, the ultra-conservative Nour Party caused an uproar following the party’s unwritten decision not to show photos of female candidates, leaving their place on banners either empty or carrying a rose.

According to election laws, every party list should contain at least one female candidate.

Candidates affiliated to the dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP) tend to use religion in their campaigns.

For example, Ahmed al-Senous, a former NDP member who running for a workers seat, hired Sheikh Yassin al-Tohamy, an acclaimed Sufi chanter, to give a concert as a tool for electoral campaigning.

The concert was attended by thousands of people.

Tohamy was also invited to perform another performance for independent candidate Alaa Hassanein.

Last October, Egypt’s ruling military council amended election rules to ban the use of religious slogans. The amendment was seen as a move to curb the Muslim Brotherhood’s use of its traditional campaign phrase: "Islam is the solution."

However, during ongoing parliamentary elections, a local human rights watchdog documented violations of the law, accusing members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafi Nour Party of using religious slogans and mosques for electoral campaigning.

FJP and Nour lead the polls, having won a combined total of nearly 75 percent of the seats allocated during the first and second round of parliamentary elections.

Even though the Brotherhood does not have any candidates running for individual seats in the southern district of Minya, various independent candidates were reported as having used the Brotherhood’s slogan to in their campaigns.

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