On 2 October 2020, the voting process began in the elections of the Egyptian House of Representatives (EHR). On 8 December 2020, the voting process will end and the final results will be announced, after which the President of the Republic will appoint 5 percent of the Members of Parliament (MPs), so that the new Parliament would hold its first session in early January 2021 to start a new legislative term.

This paper sheds light on the position of the Egyptian political parties in the parliamentary elections, the extent they can get a significant share in the final results thereof, and the expected effects of those results on the work of the new Parliament, especially at the legislative and oversight levels.

The volume of participation of the political parties in the parliamentary elections

Many political parties ran in the Egyptian parliamentary elections. Nominations were based on two electoral systems. The first is the absolute lists system, which accounts for half the number of elected MPs, namely 284 out of the 568 MPs elected. Through those lists, the parties nominate their candidates from among their own members as well as the independents whom they find promising. In this context, the party is the owner of the list that may comprise one party or be developed according to an agreement between several parties, or through the leadership by a party of a group of parties and independents. The EHR Law No. 46 of 2015, as amended, has divided the country into four major sectors/constituencies, where a party or coalition members can run in all, some, or one of those sectors/ constituencies.
The second system is individual candidacy, through which the parties nominate their candidates as ordinary citizens who have the right to declare their party affiliations. This is done for the seats for the 143 electoral districts across the Egyptian republic. Likewise, this system accounts for the other half of the number of elected MPs, which amounts to 284 of the total elected MPs.

In light of the existence of nearly 104 Egyptian political parties registered according to the Political Parties Law No. 40 of 1977, 36 political parties nominated candidates in the elections, i.e. 34.6 percent of the number of parties registered in Egypt. Among the 36 parties that nominated candidates, 14 parties ran through both the absolute list and individual candidacy systems, while 22 parties ran through the individual candidacy system alone. The most prominent of those who ran through both the list and individual candidacy systems are Mostaqbal Watan (Future of the Homeland), the Wafd (Delegation), the Homat al-Watan (Guards of the Homeland), the Republican People’s Party (RPP), the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), the Conference Party, the Reform and Development Party (RDP), and the National Progressive Unionist Party (al-Tagammu, Gathering, Rally, NPUP).

Expectations about the likely outcome of the election

  • The rate of participation in the vote in these elections is expected to be higher than it was during the Senate elections in September 2020, which remained nearly 15 percent of the number of voters. This percentage is likely to double at least for several reasons, including the great family and fanatic motivation with regard to the EHR elections compared to the Senate. In addition, the significant powers of the EHR compared to the Senate, which is not constitutionally considered a second chamber of Parliament or part of the legislative authority, make the momentum for the EHR elections great, thus increasing the rate of participation in the vote compared to the Senate.
  • At the level of the absolute list system, the National List for Egypt, which comprises a coalition of 12 parties and organisations and a few independents, and has the state’s indirect support in the four sectors/constituencies, is expected to win. Victory here will be 100 percent of the total number of the 284 candidates who constitute half the number of elected MPs through this this system, considering that the rule for dealing with the election results through the absolute lists is the “zero-sum game, meaning that there are no compromises as is the case with the proportional list system. In other words, the list either wins by 100 percent or loses by zero percent. According to the statements of the party leaders about the percentage share of each party in that list, it becomes clear that of the 284 MPs, the shares are nearly 18 candidates for the Wafd, nearly 28 candidates for the RPP, a party that is similar to the formerly ruling dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP), nearly 24 candidates for the Homat al-Watan Party whose majority comprises retired military people belonging to the events of 30 June 2013, 5 candidates for the leftist NPUP, and nearly 3 candidates for the RDP, in addition to between 3 and 7 candidates for the rest of the participants in the electoral coalition, namely the remaining small parties, the Political Parties Youth Coordination Committee (YCC) which is also pro-state, and some independent public figures. The remaining seats, which amount to nearly half and perhaps more, belong to Mostaqbal Watan which was established after the events of 30 June 2013. Thus, the Mostaqbal Watan Party, which is the successor to the Daam Masr (Support Egypt) Coalition in the current Parliament, has automatically dominated more than a quarter of the MPs of the new EHR under the list system. Meanwhile, the 11 parties allied with it, in addition to the YCC and some independents, will acquire the other quarter of the seats in the same category. All of those 284 seats will have been acquired with little effort due to the electoral system that ensures the inclusion of the votes obtained by the other lists that got below 50 percent to the list that received more than 50 percent.
  • At the individual candidacy level, which constitutes the other half of the seats, i.e. 284 seats as well, three powers are expected to dominate them. The first is the Mostaqbal Watan Party, which nominated 280 candidates and may obtain two-thirds of the seats under the individual candidacy system, as was the case in the individual candidacy system in the Senate elections in September 2020, where it obtained 88 percent of the seats under this system, regardless of the low turnout at the time. The second power, namely the independents and representatives of the rest of the parties, especially the RPP, the Homat al-Watan and the Wafd, may obtain the remaining third of the seats under this system, with a share of one sixth for each group. Indeed, the power of the independents here lies in the fact that most of the individual winners belong to the big families in urban areas, and to the fanatic loyalties and tribes in the rural areas in Upper and Lower Egypt. Those independents are mostly supporters of the deep state and the dissolved NDP and their sons and grandsons.
  • Accordingly, the next parliament is expected to be composed of the Mostaqbal Watan Party that strongly supports the state by between at least half and two-thirds of the number of elected MPs, while the remaining percentage will be shared by the independents and the other political parties, where the independents rather than the political parties will have the majority since the latter have a weak percentage in the absolute lists in favour of a strong representation for the Mostaqbal Watan. Besides, parties in Egypt are generally absent from the political scene for reasons related to internal partisan matters and matters related to the complexities of the external political environment.

Expected implications for the work of the new Parliament

In light of the aforementioned, it can be said that the next Egyptian Parliament will most likely be a Parliament that cooperates with the government in the legislative and oversight fields.

In the legislative sphere, Parliament, whose majority would be from the party that supports the Egyptian state, will provide greater support to the legislation received from the government compared to the current Parliament whose term ends in early January 2021. In the latter, despite their strong existence, party affiliations supporting the state were not characterised by cohesion. The Daam Masr Coalition was characterised by the multiplicity of the party structures within it. It could hardly be described as a party as it contained within it wings that included different parties. Today, the MPs supportive of the state will be affiliated with Mostaqbal Watan, an apparently more coherent party rather than an amorphous and ambiguous organisation. The guarantee of the survival of this party, despite being newly launched, is based on the institutions of the state itself.

As for the legislative initiatives that would be submitted by the MPs, as was the case in the current Parliament, they would be adopted without trouble related to the quarters through which they were submitted. Their outcome is guaranteed if they are submitted by MPs of Mostaqbal Watan and the like-minded parties such as Homat al-Watan and the RPP. As for the legislative initiatives submitted by the independents and other parties, including the winning parties within the National List for Egypt, such as the ESDP, the Tagammu and the Conference, they will face various difficulties in their endeavours to pass their legislative proposals on the part of the parliamentary majority or even the EHR administration.

At the oversight level, where MPs have the right to parliamentary oversight over the government with all its tools, chiefly by submitting questions, requests for briefing, interrogations, and the formation of fact-finding committees, MPs here are likely to be classified according to two criteria: the first is related to the nature of the parliamentary oversight tools. In this connection, MPs belonging to Mostaqbal Watan and those closest to them will tend to use limited-impact oversight mechanisms, such as questions and requests for briefings. Others, who are more opposed to the government, will tend resort to interrogations or request the formation of fact-finding committees to counter any charges of administrative corruption. As was the case in the current Parliament, those requests will likely be rejected, and will face restrictions imposed by the majority if they are debated, or restrictions imposed by the EHR’s administration before the fate of their discussions, if any, is decided.

The second criterion relates to the nature of the parliamentary oversight. The vast majority of the parliamentary oversight tools, regardless of their type, will often be directed at the services domain, related to matters such as health, education, agriculture, irrigation, social security, availability of goods, roads, infrastructure, etc. In addition, the majority of parliamentary oversight requests will be directed by virtue of the majority electoral system, which favours the interests of the constituencies over the nation’s interests, and the narrow services over public policies, for the constituents and not for the state as a whole. In this connection, many oversight tools are expected to emerge within the EHR related more to road-paving, agricultural cooperatives, health offices, and education directorates in cities, villages and regions than to public policies.
Thus, the next five years will witness a state of calm in the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. While this situation may be criticised by others outside Parliament due to the intensity of the economic, social and political problems, this intensity may motivate the MPs of all backgrounds to exercise calculated pressure on the government to implement reforms that would receive popular support as much as possible.

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