With the Supreme Election Commission's closure of the window for the nomination of candidates for Egypt's parliamentary elections, a fierce election battle has begun.
The battle is between the ruling National Democratic Party, which currently holds a majority of seats in parliament, and the opposition led by the Wafd Party and the legally banned Muslim Brotherhood.
The first phase of the elections is set for November 28th, with candidates competing for 508 seats, including 64 seats reserved for women. The elections come less than a year prior to the presidential elections scheduled for the end of September 2011.
The Supreme Election Commission announced Monday (November 8th), that the total number of candidates running in the elections reached 5,720 men and women, all of whom submitted their nomination papers in the designated five-day filing and application period.
The ruling party garnered the largest share of candidates among all parties, with over 700 nominated, due primarily to its new policy of running more than one candidate in many of the precincts, especially in precincts where intra-party primary elections did not result in a clear winner.
Among National Party candidates there are nine government ministers, including Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros Ghali, Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmi, and Minister of International Co-operation Faiza Abu Naga. Published candidate lists show Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif at the top the ruling party's list. The Wafd Party is fielding the largest number of candidates among opposition parties, with 209 candidates contesting seats in all provinces except South Sinai, and 27 female candidates running for quota seats. Wafd's list includes ten incumbent and 16 former representatives.
The Tagammu Party has the second-largest number of candidates among opposition parties, with 78 running, including nine women and five Copts.
Meanwhile, the legally banned Muslim Brotherhood is fielding 137 candidates (running as 'independents'), even though a number of its nominees have been rejected by the Supreme Election Commission.
The large number of candidates competing against each other has experts talking about two important factors -- the first being the extent of candidates' commitment to abide by the rules set by the Supreme Election Commission, and the likelihood of parties striking deals with each other to divide seats among them.
"The majority of the candidates will not abide by the rules instituted expressly for the electoral process, particularly the cap on election campaign spending set by the Supreme Election Commission at 200,000 pounds, and especially since election campaign advertising began months ago, much earlier than the official start date marked by the end of the nomination period," Bahiyu Ed-Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies, told Al-Shorfa.
"Despite denials by opposition parties and the National Party of the existence of a deal, by all indications there are a large number of seats that will be subject to deals and concessions by both the National Party and the opposition parties," he added.
The prohibition of the use of religious slogans is one of the key rules the Supreme Election Commission has warned against violating. But with campaign advertising peaking in the coming days, a confrontation between the Supreme Election Commission and the Muslim Brotherhood is inevitable, given that the Brotherhood has announced it will not relinquish the slogan "Islam is the solution" as the campaign slogan for all its candidates.
In response, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights demanded that the Brotherhood's candidates commit in the days following the end of the nomination period to abide by the rules of the Supreme Elections Commission, out of respect for the Egyptian Constitution.
The large number of independent candidates, which exceeds 4000, "could ignite some constituencies", according to Dr. Amr Hashem Rabie, a political analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
"Some electoral districts in the 2005 elections experienced violent incidents due to the large number of candidates competing for one seat, leading to voter intimidation and bullying," Rabie said, noting that, "most bullying incidents took place in districts contested by a large number of independent candidates."