Will the Democratic Republic of Congo be Egypt’s newest ally in dam disputes?

Political and technical negotiations between Cairo and Addis Ababa on Nile River water management remain at a standstill in light of Ethiopia’s insistence on going forward with construction of the Renaissance Dam, which threatens Egyptian Nile water interests. This once again pushed the Egyptian political administration to renew its policy based on mending and strengthening its relationship with other Nile upstream countries in the equatorial lakes region, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been one of Egypt’s political and strategic allies since the beginning of the Nile water dispute.

On Feb. 4, Augustin Matata Ponyo, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s prime minister, visited Cairo for three days at the head of a delegation that included the ministers of energy, water and industry. Ponyo held extensive meetings with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. In addition, a memorandum of understanding was inked between Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the Inga Dam project. In a press conference held at the Council of Ministers, the Egyptian and Congolese prime ministers announced that Egypt will participate in stages 3 and 4 of the Inga Dam construction project and stated that an Egyptian official visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo will be scheduled to acquire further accurate information about the dam.

In this regard, Egypt’s Minister of Electricity and Energy Mohamed Shaker told Al-Monitor, “We will provide technical, technological and engineering support for the construction of the Inga Dam.”

Shaker talked about how Egypt will benefit from the Congolese dam project. “There are ambitious plans for power grids [interconnecting] between South Africa and North Africa, whose execution may require some time — but there is a vision to start the execution of these plans on the ground over different stages,” he said.

The Egyptian grants that were agreed upon during the visit reached $10 million and were allocated for the execution of six projects, including the design studies and commissioning of the Inga Dam and other service projects to dig wells for providing drinking water, as well as scholarships and training for workers in the field of water resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Maghazi told Al-Monitor, “The Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation will send a delegation to [the Democratic Republic of Congo] to follow up on the implementation of cooperation projects and on all matters related to coordination on the execution of the Inga Dam.”

The Inga Dam, located on the Congo River 225 kilometers (140 miles) southwest of the capital, Kinshasa, is one of the largest hydropower projects in Africa. It is designed to generate 40,000 megawatts of electricity. The project, which is still under construction, is facing financial hurdles with the estimated cost to build it having risen to $80 billion, and counting.

Congolese Minister of Energy and Water Matadi Gamanda told Al-Monitor, “The completion of the dam is facing major challenges in terms of design, financing and management, and we hope Egypt will cooperate with us on facing these challenges.”

He added, “The Inga Dam project will be the largest integration project in Africa, which is still in need of more power to meet the needs of its population.”

“We do intend to compete with Ethiopia in terms for the production of hydroelectric power. The Inga Dam project will certainly provide huge amounts of energy that may not be compared with a project such as the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

It should be noted that Egypt’s water interests with the Democratic Republic of Congo are not limited to Egyptian official support to the Inga Dam; Egypt raised proposals in the last three years aimed at pumping more water into the Nile River in the equatorial lakes region by linking the Nile and Congo rivers, to provide Egypt with additional water shares — a proposed project that was subject to a wide technical controversy.

Gamanda said of this proposal, “This project is not realistic; it is merely a dream. What is more important now is to promote cooperation to help [the Democratic Republic of Congo] benefit from the water resources on its territory.”

He added, “[The Democratic Republic of Congo’s] position to support Egypt in the dispute between it and the Nile upstream countries on water management in the Nile basin is clear and explicit.”

“We will not sign any agreements that harm Egyptian interests,” Gamanda added, referring to the Agreement on the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework, also known as the Entebbe Agreement. The agreement was signed by the six Nile Basin upstream countries and rejected by the downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan, which object to clauses giving upstream countries the right to exploit the Nile resources without being bound by the obligations not to harm water interests or historical quotas.

“We are ready to act as mediator again between Egypt and the rest of the Nile upstream countries in order to renegotiate the agreement and resolve this crisis, if Egypt asks us to play this role,” said Gamanda.

It seems that Cairo is banking on improving its relationship with the Democratic Republic of Congo as an important step to ensure Egypt’s presence in the Nile’s headwaters (the equatorial lakes) region by building on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s policies and its support for Egypt’s stance during the arduous negotiations over the past 10 years with the Nile upstream countries on water management in the Nile River basin.

Mohamed Nasreddin Allam, the former minister of water resources and irrigation who participated in the negotiations with the Nile Basin countries between 2009 and 2011, told Al-Monitor, “[The Democratic Republic of Congo] has been consistently supporting the Egyptian stance and opinion and refused to sign the Entebbe Agreement — unlike Burundi, which signed it after the Egyptian revolution in 2011.”

He added, “The current political coordination of positions with [the Democratic Republic of Congo] is important in order for Egypt to gain a strong African ally, especially in light of enormous pressures on Egypt by the Nile upstream countries and poor coordination with Sudan, which was a strategic ally of Egypt in the Nile water issue.”

Allam said, “Egypt’s support to Inga Dam in [the Democratic Republic of Congo] is a strong pressure card against Ethiopia’s dream to be the only source of energy export to the African countries, since the execution and commissioning of the dam will turn [the Democratic Republic of Congo] into the first energy exporter in Africa as well as the cheapest and safest alternative.”

It seems the Egyptian political administration has managed to gain allies from among the Nile upstream countries to secure its water interests. Yet its biggest challenge is to link its official rapprochement policies to projects and direct interests that bring about tangible benefits for the peoples of the upstream countries aspiring for development and not just contenting itself with official visits and political promises

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/02/egypt-ethiopia-renaissance-dam-dispute-congo-inga.html#ixzz42dfOQswR

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Potential solutions to Egypt-Ethiopia dam dispute remain murky

1568035b33cbf3_IELFNGOJHQMKPKHARTOUM, Sudan — Participants kicked up plenty of dust at the most recent round of negotiations concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, but once again departed with only an agreement to keep trying to reach an agreement.

The negotiations among officials of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan were marked by direct confrontations and escalating tension. Potential solutions are murky, at best, and the process remains stagnant.

On Dec. 27, the negotiating parties found themselves forced to announce that they had signed a document calling for “continued” cooperation and trust-building in an attempt to contain mounting public pressure in Egypt and Ethiopia. Yet the parties failed to find a solution that preserves the Nile water interests of Cairo and Addis Ababa.

The negotiations resumed in Khartoum just two weeks after the first round held in the first week of December. However, Egypt remained skeptical, especially after Ethiopia announced Dec. 26 — just hours before the start of negotiations — that it was diverting the Nile’s course to run through the dam for the first time. This step confirmed Addis Ababa’s refusal to delay construction on the dam until the end of the negotiations.

The filling of the dam’s reservoir and its operating mechanisms topped the negotiations’ agenda, but Egypt and Ethiopia’s divergent visions and intransigent positions hindered any potential agreement.

The Egyptian delegation rejected Ethiopia’s request to store at least 3 billion cubic meters (2.4 million acre feet) of water in the dam to carry out construction safety tests.

The Egyptian delegation refused the idea of any water storage. For its part, Ethiopia rejected Egypt’s request to extend the period to fill up the dam to 11 years or reduce the storage capacity of the dam to 50 billion cubic meters from 72 billion cubic meters.

During the first hours of the meetings, the decision was finally made to restart the technical studies on the dam’s impact — a topic of dispute for 18 months now, after the withdrawal of the Dutch consulting institute Deltares. Officials agreed to use the French design and engineering consulting company Artelia Group to carry out 30% of the studies with BRL, another French consulting group, provided the studies are officially started by the beginning of February.

Egypt and Ethiopia were both satisfied with Artelia, which has provided its services in major projects in the two countries. It has a permanent office in Egypt and participated in the studies and technical and economic assessment of the GIBE III 1.870 MW hydropower project in Ethiopia. It provided engineering and technical consulting services for hydroelectric projects such as the Ethiopian Assiut Barrage in 2009, in addition to irrigation and water treatment projects such as the rehabilitation of the Nubaria and Ismailia canals from 2010 to 2013 in the Nile Delta.

An Egyptian official familiar with the negotiations told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “We are still facing a great dilemma, since Ethiopia is insisting on continuing construction of the dam without taking any political pledge to comply with the studies’ recommendations, which may be difficult to implement after the dam is complete and operating.

The foreign ministers of all three countries signed a document after the meeting at an upbeat press conference, attended by Al-Monitor, aimed at calming the charged atmosphere that prevailed over the meetings. The agreement’s three major articles, however, add little new to the Declaration of Principles signed by the three presidents in March.

These articles are the approval of Artelia, a commitment to speed up completion of the studies recommended by the International Panel of Experts on the dam in May 2013 and continued compliance by the three negotiating states with the policies of good faith and trust in accordance with the terms of the Declaration of Principles.

It should be noted that, during the December meeting, Egypt submitted a technical proposal to increase the number of lower water gates to secure a daily flow in the event of any malfunction or maintenance of the main gates or the associated tunnels.

Yet after the first technical meeting between experts from the three countries, held Jan. 7-8 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia officially rejected the proposal. Bizuneh Tolcha, public relations director at the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, said no changes would be made to the plan’s design and two water outlets would provide a suitable water flow to Egypt and Sudan.

Asrat Birhanu, an Ethiopian electrical power expert, told Al-Monitor, “The diversion of the river into its natural course and the water flowing inside it means that the dam is now ready for initial filling of a storage of nearly 4 billion cubic meters in the near future.”

He added, “This procedure does not affect the water flowing to Egypt and Sudan, which will not be reduced during the completion of the construction of the dam.”

Regarding Egypt’s request to increase the number of water gates in the dam, Birhanu said, “Ethiopia already conducted a hydraulic simulation model to simulate the quantities of water flowing to Egypt and Sudan, [which showed there would not be] significant damage during the filling of the reservoir designed with a capacity of 72 billion cubic meters and estimated to be filled in a period ranging from three to five years.”

He explained that “according to the initial design, sufficient water quantities pass through the dam’s water gates to Egypt and Sudan during the initial filling period as of the start of July 2016 of a storage capacity of 4 billion cubic meters.”

“Fulfilling Egypt’s request to increase the number of the dam’s gates to four will not have a special economic benefit, especially since these gates will not be used during the operation of the dam,” he added.

The meetings stirred objections among the Egyptian and Ethiopian public in the absence of a reassuring categorical solution. Egyptians have become concerned about the dam’s impact on Egypt’s annual quota of Nile water, while Ethiopian public opinion has been influenced for the four past years by a political campaign stressing the need to complete the dam project, which has become Ethiopia’s No. 1 development dream.

In a Dec. 30 speech, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi talked about the Egyptian concerns. “I share with you this concern,” he said. “But rest assured … I have never deceived you.

Read my origenal article here : http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/egypt-ethiopia-renaissance-dam-dispute-negotiations.html#ixzz3y1L4x37C

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Egypt’s parliamentary ‘circus’ will not be going live

CAIRO — Egypt’s newly elected parliament kicked off the year by banning live news broadcasts of its sessions. Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al said the temporary decision came following “specific circumstances.”

During the first parliament session Jan. 10, some members of parliament exhibited inappropriate behaviors that were aired live on TV. One member was heard insulting parliamentary regulations, while member of parliament Murtada Mansour went off-script while reciting the constitutional oath. Mansour refused to acknowledge the 2011 revolution, which resulted in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, and accused his fellow MPs of being informers for Egyptian intelligence agencies.

MP Kamal Ahmed, expressing his objection to the way parliamentary sessions are conducted, abruptly resigned. Kamal was quoted in Shorouk newspaper as saying that the actions of some MPs had turned the parliament into a circus.

In a Jan. 12 news conference, Abdel-Al said, “We are not contesting the role of the media, and reporters will continue to cover the sessions.” He denounced the performance of some journalists and cameramen who took offensive shots of some MPs.

The Egyptian Constitution allows for completely closed sessions if specific procedures are followed. According to Article 120, “The sessions of the House of Representatives are held in public. The House may hold a closed session based on a request by the president of the republic, the speaker of the House, or at least 20 of its members. The House will decide by majority whether the debate in question takes place in a public or a closed session.”

Shawki al-Sayed, a constitutional law expert and former member of parliament’s now-defunct Shura Council, told Al-Monitor, “The decision not to broadcast the sessions live is void and contrary to the constitution.” He said, “The constitution expressly provides for public sessions, which must be broadcast to the public without omissions or editing, and every citizen has the right to see what is happening under the parliament’s dome as if he were there himself.”

Sayed added, “The press coverage is not sufficient to impartially and objectively relay what is happening in parliament. The public nature of parliament sessions provided for by the constitution means that sessions should be aired live. Any decision voted by the parliament in a closed session shall be deemed null and void.”

However, legal expert Issam al-Islambouli rejected the idea that decisions made during closed sessions are null.

“The public nature of the sessions set forth in the constitution is intended to allow citizens to follow up on the parliament sessions by attending the sessions and does not mean live broadcasting of sessions,” he told Al-Monitor.

The ban on live streaming comes at the most critical period for the parliament. Members must vote to continue the government and are expected to review more than 330 laws and decrees issued by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and former interim President Adly Mansour in the absence of a parliament for the past three years. Parliament has formed 19 committees to review the laws.

Though the broadcasting ban was approved by a majority, MP Samir Ghattas called it “a disservice to democracy in Egypt.”

“This decision will further complicate things. This is not the way to solve the problems that arise during sessions,” he said.

Ghattas added that he submitted a petition to parliament stating that “public opinion wants public hearings.”

“I warned that these practices would turn us into a nonviable and nondemocratic parliament,” he said.

Other MPs defended the decision. MP Mustafa Bakri was quoted by Shorouk newspaper as saying, “The decision was made to limit disturbances and to prevent some MPs from exploiting live coverage to put on a show.”

In an attempt to control the raucous floor, MPs also voted that extended applause during sessions will be limited to major national decisions or events.

Parliamentary affairs researcher Yosri al-Azbawi told Al-Monitor, “The chaos … that marred the first sessions of the parliament reflects the state of division and the weakness of the political parties [particularly the Support Egypt Coalition] and the electoral system that formed this parliament.”

He added, “Closed sessions cannot be a durable solution, and the rule is that the parliament sessions are open sessions.”

In another development, Abdel-Al ratified Presidential Decree No. 417/2015, extending by three months a state of emergency in some North Sinai areas, where the military is fighting Islamist militants. The speaker made the decision without putting it to a vote, which raised the ire of some MPs.

MP Fouad Badrawi slammed the decision, invoking Article 154 of the constitution, which says a state of emergency must be approved by a majority of MPs.

In turn, Abdel-Al replied, “The approval of the proclamation is not binding.


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Despite risk of $62 fine for not voting, less than 20% of Egyptians bothered to show up at polls

Voters’ indifference and lack of participation marred the first round of parliamentary elections conducted in 14 governorates. Yet, electoral observers expected such an outcome in these Egyptian elections, due to the lack of an effective popular base eager to hold elections, amid a political atmosphere replete with frustration for many political parties and factions, as well as for ordinary people on the street.

Throughout the two days of voting, Oct. 18-19, conflicting figures emerged as to the percentage of voters casting their ballots after the Supreme Electoral Commission announced on the first day of voting that the initial estimated rate of participation was only 1.2% as of the middle of Oct. 18.

This figure raised the ire of the government and official media outlets, which mobilized to urge voters to participate through extensive media campaigns that blanketed official television station airwaves under the slogan of “Inzil” (come down).

Low participation figures sparked cynicism on social networking sites, despite anticipatory statements by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Oct. 17, the eve of the first day of elections, urging voters to participate: “I call on you to rally strongly once again, in order to complete this last milestone that we all agreed upon.” He added, “Egyptian youth must take the lead on election day.”

The government did try to contain the issue, with the Council of Ministers declaring Oct. 18 that the workday on the second day of elections would be cut in half and end at 11 a.m. in order to encourage employees to head to the polling stations.

In parallel, the minister of local development, Ahmed Zaki Bader, on Oct. 19 threatened laggards with the law, insinuating that those who were registered but refrained from voting without a valid excuse (which the law does not specify) would be fined 500 Egyptian pounds ($62) in accordance with Article 57 of the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights.

A number of military vehicles roamed the perimeter of some polling stations in Giza governorate during the first day of balloting to invite citizens to vote to the tune of patriotic music, while the governor of Alexandria, Hani al-Misery, proclaimed on the second day of voting that the use of public transportation would be free on election day.

On Oct. 19, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, after conducting a quick visit to the Council of Ministers’ situation room, issued a statement indicating that “voting rates had reached 16%,” although the head of the Judges Club, Abdallah Fathi, announced that “participation on the first day did not exceed 2%, and reached 6% on the second day.”

In field visits conducted by Al-Monitor during the two days of voting to four polling stations in the Dokki and Agouza districts of Giza governorate, low turnout rates were noted in districts where a number of political and media icons were running, such as independent studies professor Amr el-Shobaki, Ahmad Mortada Mansour, the son of the Zamalek soocer club chairman, and Abdul Rahim Ali, the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper, al-Bawaba news.

As she headed to cast her vote, Mirfat Hussein, 50, told Al-Monitor, “I am participating out of fear that Islamists and remnants of the old regime would prevail. But I do not expect to be well represented in parliament.”

Along the same lines, a number of young people interviewed by Al-Monitor on the outskirts of Dokki and Agouza neighborhoods indicated that they lacked confidence in parliament and its ability to echo the opinions of the Egyptian people. In that regard, Mohamed Hosni, 20, said, “I do not have a lot of trust in the candidates … and do not expect them to back youth-related issues.”

Hazem Baily, 37, disapprovingly said, “I did not know that there were elections being held in the first place.”

Political activist Safwan Mohammed talked with Al-Monitor about the reluctance of young people to participate, and said, “Lack of participation by the youth in these elections is clear to everyone; the reason simply is that most young political front-runners in Egypt are currently jailed.”

Safwan, who was a candidate in the parliamentary elections of 2011, added, “The absence of a free political climate deprives parliament of its importance. Not to mention the lack of a mechanism guaranteeing pluralism.”

The low voter turnout in the first round of these parliamentary elections raises questions as to the legitimacy and popular base of the next parliament, which will be formed amid political turmoil and probably be controlled by men affiliated with Sisi and people who are strong defenders of his opinions.

While low turnout may affect the election’s overall legitimacy at home and abroad, there is no legal basis for such an occurrence to overturn the election. Constitutional law expert Mohammad Nour Farhat told Al-Monitor, “Weak participation is a serious indicator of the Egyptian street’s dissatisfaction in relation to elections that have been long delayed, since the adoption of the July 2013 road map. Parliament will lack political and popular legitimacy, but will retain its legality.”

Based on information gathered by Al-Monitor from the Council of Ministers’ situation room, the campaign headquarters of political parties, and the reports of observers from Egyptian organizations, Al-Monitor noted that a number of concerns were raised about the tardiness and failure of a number of judges to assume their electoral supervisory roles; this forced the Supreme Electoral Commission to merge, on the first day of voting, 89 committees in a number of governorates due to the shortage of judges and advisers. For its part, the Judges Club announced on the same day that some judges had received threatening anonymous phone messages to dissuade them from taking part in the elections.

In this regard, the spokesman for the Judges Club stated to Al-Monitor, “Those messages were reported and are being investigated.”

Yet, he denied that they were the reasons for the reluctance of some judges to participate in the elections, and added, “The judges are working hand in hand with the state to make these elections a success. Adequate measures have been taken to safeguard the participation of judges during the two electoral days.”

Of note during the first round of elections was the introduction of two electoral districts for Nubia, Halayeb and Shalateen, which were unrepresented in previous parliaments. Compared with the fluid situation in other first-round districts, turnout in those two new districts was relatively better, for reasons that observers attribute to the desire of their inhabitants to be represented in parliament, where their interests may be defended.

Voting by Egyptians abroad — which the political regime is waging on for support — was not much different from the trend back home. Preliminary count results from Egyptian embassies abroad from Ministry of Foreign Affairs data obtained by Al-Monitor indicated that participation levels were less than expected, with Kuwait (8,000 voters) and Saudi Arabia (5,000 voters) recording the highest voter turnout, with the For the Love of Egypt list garnering a majority of votes and the Salafist Nour Party’s list receiving the least number of votes; the results will be officially announced Oct. 21.

As initial first-round ballot counts indicated that regime loyalists in the For the Love of Egypt list would prevail with the emergence of a number of candidates not known for their opposition to the regime, observers told Al-Monitor that they expected the second round to follow the same general trend and lack strong participation overall; still, they expected that there would be some attempts by candidates to mobilize people and even to resort to electoral bribes — a few such cases were recorded in the first round of voting.


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Egyptians prepare for elections … but do they really matter?

Egypt’s 2015 parliamentary makeup is taking shape as elections officially get underway to form a long-awaited Council of Representatives. This achievement, seen as the electoral culmination of a road map announced July 3, 2013, is taking place in the absence of most of the post-January 2011 revolution political and partisan figures, who gradually disappeared from the political arena during the past two years.

In that context, the electoral scene is dominated by some pro-regime symbols and affluent supporters of the Hosni Mubarak regime, known as “feloul” (“remnants”), after the January 25 Revolution. There are some political parties timidly participating through the nomination of a few candidates, in keeping with the Egyptian Elections Law that limited opportunities for political party candidates to reach parliament, as opposed to individual candidates.

Despite political bickering between the regime and the multitude of political parties and movements that reject the elections law, and the cancellation of elections in March after a decision to that effect by the Supreme Constitutional Court — which found those laws in breach of constitutional provisions — President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi again approved the law in July after the Cabinet made minor amendments to the provisions dealing with individual candidacies. Still, this failed to satisfy political movements that rejected the draft bill from its inception.

Furthermore, in its decision No. 65 in August, the Supreme Electoral Commission called on eligible citizens to exercise their political right to cast their ballots in the upcoming parliamentary elections, organized pursuant to the 2014 Law on the Exercise of Political Rights, the amended 2014 Council of Representatives Law and the amended 2014 Electoral District Law, in two stages. The first stage would be held in 14 governorates Oct. 18-19, and the second in 13 governorates Nov. 22-23.

Parliamentary elections are to be held in 205 districts, pursuant to the amended Electoral District Law, and voters will choose their individual representatives out of a total number of 5,936 candidates. In addition, four districts have been formed where candidates from electoral lists will be elected to represent Greater Cairo, Upper Egypt, the West Delta and East Delta. There will be 448 candidates elected on an individual basis and 120 elected from lists. Sisi also will be able to appoint up to 28 members of parliament.

Noteworthy after the final list of candidates was announced is the fact that no political or partisan faction appeared to have an edge in the elections, as was the case following the January revolution in 2011, which led to the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood. Also noteworthy is the emergence of a number of political figures affiliated with the Mubarak regime’s disbanded National Democratic Party, who are seen as heavy favorites in the same electoral districts that the party represented in the 2005 and 2010 parliaments.

The number of candidates known for their close affiliation with the Mubarak regime is estimated at 200 — they form part of what is called the return of the disbanded National Democratic Party’s representatives — with signs indicating their chances for success are rising due to their coordinative abilities and the services they provide in their respective districts. Most prominent among those figures is Shahinaz el-Naggar, the wife of renowned businessman Ahmad Ezz, who held the post of organization secretary in the National Democratic Party and who was a close associate of the former president’s son, Gamal Mubarak. Other figures include Haidar Baghdadi, a former National Democratic Party member of parliament in 2005 and 2010; Ali al-Mseilhi, minister of social solidarity under Mubarak and a leadership figure in the party; and Hani Srour, a former member of parliament accused and acquitted in 2010 of providing defective blood bags to the Ministry of Health.

On the opposite side of the fence, some parties have submitted a number of nominees in a variety of districts, with about 250 candidates representing the New Wafd Party, 250 representing the Egyptian Patriotic Movement, 227 nominated by the Free Egyptians, 194 by the Nation’s Future Party, over 200 by the Nour Party and about 100 by the Egyptain Social Democratic Party. The Justice Party nominated two candidates and the Constitution Party failed to nominate anyone.

The Free Egyptians Party, financed by prominent businessman Naguib Sawiris, topped other political parties in the quality of its publicity material and financial spending, with candidates almost completely relying on Sawiris’ money and economic clout to finance their electoral campaigns. In that regard, Mahmoud al-Alaily, a member of the party’s supreme leadership committee, stated to the press that “Sawiris’ achievements in the investment sector give us great credibility.”

Support and intervention by businessmen is not limited to Sawiris, as other personalities have also come to the forefront, such as Al-Sayed al-Badawi, who owns Al Hayat television network, as well as Akmal Kortam, who owns a number of print publications and newspapers and Mohamed Abu el-Ainain, the owner of the Sada Al Balad channels. All these media outlets have launched campaigns and television programs to promote their respective candidates in the upcoming elections.

Electoral-list candidates vie for 120 seats

In addition to the elections for individual candidates, parliamentary balloting also will be held for 120 seats through lists in four electoral districts. There will be 45 candidates elected from lists to represent northern, southern and central Upper Egypt, which collectively encompass 11 governorates, and 45 more from the Southern and Central Delta (Greater Cairo) made up of six governorates. There will be 15 candidates elected from lists seeking to represent the Western Delta’s three governorates, and 15 more in the Eastern Delta’s seven governorates.

The competing lists were formed through negotiations behind closed doors by businessmen, state officials, and some parties and figures that support the current political regime. Most prominent among the lists is the For the Love of Egypt list, formed by Sameh Seif Yazal, which pledges total allegiance to the current regime. Other competing lists are Egypt, the Nour Party, the Call of Egypt, the Egyptian Front Coalition and the Independence Movement.

The For the Love of Egypt coalition is the strongest among the groupings competing for list-based seats. It is led by political figures that are pro-Sisi, and encompasses seven political parties, such as the Egyptian Future Party of Mohamed Badran, nicknamed in political circles “the spoiled boy close to the president,” as well as the Wafd, Free Egyptians and My Homeland Egypt parties.

For the Love of Egypt is the only coalition with lists in all four electoral districts; its electoral list already has won by default in the Eastern Delta for a lack of competing lists after the High Elections Committee disqualified, for administrative reasons, the Egypt list.

The second strongest grouping is the Egypt list, which includes the Egyptian Front Coalition and the Independence Movement. It has fielded three lists for the Western Delta, northern and central Upper Egypt and Greater Cairo. The Salafist Nour Party is participating with two lists, in Greater Cairo and the Western Delta, where it is expected to win as a result of its large Salafist popular base.

As candidate lists — affiliated with financial affluence and supporters of the current political regime — compete over parliamentary seats, the electoral scene remains devoid of opposition political symbols or figures with legislative or oversight experience. This may herald the election of a parliament limited to providing services rather than exercising its true, constitutionally determined powers.

The constitution, approved in a 2014 referendum, contains 38 articles, from Article 101 to Article 138, that pertain to the exercise of legislative powers, and organizing the activities of parliament, starting with the adoption of state general policies, economic and social development plans, public budgets and oversight of the executive branch. Those articles further give parliament broad powers that supersede those of the president — such as placing restrictions on the president’s right to relieve the prime minister and other Cabinet members of their duties, or ordering a Cabinet reshuffling without the approval of a parliamentary majority. They further give parliament the right to level charges against the president if the latter is found to have breached constitutional provisions, as well as the right to withdraw confidence from the president and conduct early presidential elections.

These broad powers were highlighted by Sisi, who, on more than one occasion, stated that “the next parliament may pose a great threat to national security if its members are not carefully chosen.” Sisi went even further to criticize the constitution and its provisions that set out the powers of parliament and said, “Many of the constitution’s provisions were written in good faith, but, the country cannot be governed by good intentions, and the next parliament shall either be a hindrance or a blessing.”

In the absence of parliament, Sisi issued 263 laws in 420 days — most of which focus on economic, military and security affairs; the organization of the judiciary and criminal procedures; and the addition of new categories of military tribunals. On the other hand, there are laws that may be deemed unconstitutional, such as the Maximum Wage Law, as well as the issuance of the Suez Canal Certificates, and the Long Live Egypt Fund. For, under Article 156 of the constitution, all these laws are subject to review and approval by parliament during the latter’s first 15 days in session, and are considered to be retroactively null and void if they are not deliberated and discussed.

Unqualified candidates

But political pundits played down the possibility that parliament, in its projected form and in view of the candidates’ agendas and affiliations, would be able to perform these ascribed tasks, while considering that said tasks would be limited to delivering public services and providing the regime with political cover, thus complementing the semblance of democratic rule, without any actual exercise of parliamentary oversight and legislating powers.

“The upcoming parliament will be distorted and not representative of Egyptian society; as a result, parliament will be the scene of great political turmoil,” political writer Abdullah al-Sinawi said in an interview with Al-Monitor.

“Primary responsibility for this situation lies in the electoral laws that were passed by the state without effective participation by the parties, leading to parliament being emptied of its political substance. The candidates included on electoral lists have neither the political nor the legal ability to legislate. President Sisi will correct this problem by appointing 5% of members of parliament possessing such abilities, and entrust them with reviewing and resubmitting pieces of legislation that he had circulated.”

Hassan Nafehah, a professor of electoral sciences, told Al-Monitor, “The electoral scene may be boisterous, but there is no hope for the political factions that led the January 25 [2011] or June 30 [2013] revolutions to regain their status; the main competing forces now are those that predominantly lean toward Mubarak’s regime. Electoral lists do not reflect the real roles played by Egyptian political parties, which number around 100, as most of those lists have been imposed by security agencies.” Commenting on the state of individual candidates, Nafehah said, “Political money, partisanship, clan affiliation and personal interests prevail.”

Amid slogans raised by the state to fight terrorism and embark on huge national projects that receive wide popular support with the help of pro-regime media promotion, Egypt awaits the election of a domesticated opposition parliament that does not significantly derail the regime while placating international questions concerning the tardiness of this third milestone on the road map announced on July 3, 2013


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