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POGAR > Countries > Country Theme: Elections: Egypt
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Overview

The executive branch of Egypt is headed by an elected president, and the Egyptian parliament gave its final approval on June 16, 2005 of the new presidential elections law. The new law provides that more than one presidential candidate may compete in the elections, but that elections are to take place even if there is only one candidate. They are to occur in one day under judicial supervision. The legislative branch is composed of a bicameral parliament. Article 5 of the Egyptian Constitution states that Egypt is a multi-party democracy. The Political Parties Committee, a six-person panel that President Sadat created in 1976, manages the entry of new political parties. Eleven of the 12 political parties formed since the 1970s were initially denied licenses by the Committee. In each case, after failing to gain party status, the leaders appealed the decision to the judiciary. The courts overturned the committee’s rejections and allowed the new parties to form. In the most recent elections, 14 legal political parties fielded candidates. The Egyptian Constitution of 1971 formally prohibits political parties based on religious identity. The political parties law passed in June 2005 introduced basic changes concerning their financial resources. Dissolving any political party would now require an investigation by the "socialist prosecutor," rather than a decision by the political parties committee as in the past, and then a constitutional amendment to Article 179, passed in March 2007, replaced the prosecutor with security services.

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Election Laws, Systems and Processes

Voting in Egypt is open to all Egyptian nationals over the age of 18. Elections to the People’s Assembly (Majlis al-Chaab) are to be conducted every five years. There are 454 members, of which 444 are elected by popular vote. Four hundred are elected by proportional representation in two-member constituencies, and 44 are elected in single-seat constituencies. The president appoints the remaining ten seats, most often in such a way as to support underrepresented groups, such as women, Copts, and smaller opposition parties. The most recent elections for the Egyptian legislative body were held in November, 2005. In addition to the People’s Assembly, the Shoura Assembly (Majlis al-Shoura) serves in a strictly advisory capacity and has no legislative powers. One hundred and seventy-six members of its 264-member body are elected, while the president appoints the remaining 88 members. A member's term of office may last up to six years, but one half of both the elected and the appointed members are chosen by lot to lose their seats after three years. Those who lose their seats in this fashion are entitled to run for re-election and may be reappointed. The most recent mid-term renewal elections of the consultative/Shura council took place on June 11 and 18, 2007.

Prior to the latest presidential elections in Egypt, the president used to be elected in three steps. First, he was nominated by one-third of the People's Congress; second, the nomination had to be approved by a two-third majority of the legislature; and finally the candidate was confirmed by popular referendum. The most recent presidential elections held on September 7, 2005, however, were conducted according to the amended article 76 of the constitution stipulating that the president is to be elected by direct public contested elections, rather than by referendum after being nominated by the People's Assembly as in the past. Ten candidates competed for the presidency, including President Husni Mubarak running as a representative of the "National Party". The other 9 candidates were all leaders of Egyptian political parties. The two prominent candidates among them were Noman Gomaa' leader of the liberal "al-Wafd Party" and Ayman Nour leader of the liberal "Ghad (Tomorrow) Party". The number of eligible registered voters was 32 million and the number of those who cast their votes was 7.3 million. The participation rate was low, 23% of eligible voters. Final results were as follows: President Mubarak won 6.3 million votes or 88.6% of votes. Ayman Nour came second with 540 thousand votes or 7.6% of votes, and Noman Gomaa' held third place with 209 thousand votes or 2.9% of votes. Among the remaining candidates, the highest won 12,000 votes and the lowest won 4000 votes only. The Presidential Elections Commission oversaw the elections assisted by 329 general committees and 9865 subsidiary or local committees. The Egyptian government did not allow the presence of international observers at the presidential elections. However, it allowed foreign and Arab journalists and reporters to cover the electoral process inside the polling stations and provided them with free of charge live broadcasting services. Following an Administrative Judicial Court ruling, a small number of Egyptian representatives of civil society organizations were also permitted to observe the elections.

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Election Authorities

As a result of the involvement of an independent judiciary, the legislative elections of October-November 2000 were considered to be the fairest of the previous decade. In response to charges of fraud and corruption leveled at earlier elections, the Supreme Constitutional Court in July of 2000 ruled that the elections of 1990 and 1995 were unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court called for judges to oversee balloting in each polling station in the 2000 elections. Although the judiciary is legally empowered to oversee elections, civil servants had supervised previous ones. To accommodate the limited number of justices, and the large number of polling stations, voting took place in three rounds, from mid-October to mid-November. This election was the first ever in Egypt in which the judiciary oversaw the election process. In March 2007, however, Article 88 of the Constitution of 1971 was amended to eliminate direct judicial supervision of the elections. The article had stipulated the formula "a judge for every ballot box". The new amendment eliminates direct judicial supervision of elections over Egypt’s 34,000 local polling station committees and transfers this task to "A Higher Committee characterized by independent and impartiality," some of whose members are previous or current members of judicial bodies. The "higher committee" supervises Egypt’s 333 general election district committees only, while the local polling stations are supervised by government employees.

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Presidential Elections

The most recent presidential elections, held on September 7, 2005, were direct for the first time, contested by ten candidates, including President Husni Mubarak running as a representative of the "National Party". The other 9 candidates were all leaders of Egyptian political parties. The two prominent candidates among them were Noman Gomaa' leader of the liberal "al-Wafd Party" and Ayman Nour leader of the liberal "Ghad (Tomorrow) Party". The number of eligible registered voters was 32 million and the number of those who cast their votes was 7.3 million. The participation rate was low, 23% of eligible voters. Final results were as follows: President Mubarak won 6.3 million votes or 88.6% of votes. Ayman Nour came second with 540 thousand votes or 7.6% of votes, and Noman Gomaa' held third place with 209 thousand votes or 2.9% of votes. Among the remaining candidates, the highest won 12,000 votes and the lowest won 4000 votes only.

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Legislative Elections

The first phase of the latest Egyptian legislative elections took place on November 9, 2005. The legislative elections were to be conducted in 3 stages over a period of 6 weeks. The first phase covered 8 provinces: Cairo, Jiza, Manoufia, Bani Swaif, Minya, Asyout, Al-Wadi Al-Jadid and Matrouh. A total of 1635 candidates representing all political parties and independents competed for 164 parliamentary seats. The number of eligible voters was 10.76 million. The elections were supervised by 10,000 district and local polling station committees chaired by 11,000 judges and other members of the judiciary. 2.7 million citizens cast their votes. The participation rate was 24.9%. Election results determined the fate of 31 parliamentary seats of which the ruling "National Party" won 26 seats and the "Muslim Brothers Group" won 5 seats. The 3 opposition parties that formed "The National Front for Change" before the elections did not win any parliamentary seat. They are: "Wafd Party", "Al-Tajammu’" (The Rally Party – leftist), and the "Nasserite Party". Ayman Nour, the leader of "Tomorrow's Party", who was President Mubarak’s main opponent in the last presidential elections, also lost his parliamentary seat. Runoff elections to determine the fate of the remaining 133 seats took place on November 15, 2005. The final results were as follows: The (ruling) National Party won 68 seats; the religious trend (Muslim Brothers Group) won 34 seats; independents (mostly dissidents from the National Party who ran as independents) won 54 seats; and opposition parties won 8 seats (2 seats each by Al-Tajammu’ and Al-Wafd, and one seat each by "Al-Ghad", "Al-Ahrar", "Al-Karamah" and the "National Front for Change").

The second phase of legislative elections took place on November 20 in 9 provisions: Alexandria, Al-Buhaira, Ismailiah, Sues, Port Sa'eed, Qalubiya, Al-Gharbia, Fayyoum and Qana. These provinces were divided into 72 electoral districts, with 144 parliamentary seats. There were 1706 candidates and over 10 million registered voters. The minister of justice and head of the Supreme Elections Committee said that 4740 representatives of civil society organizations were allowed to monitor the elections. Results of the first round showed that only 23 candidates were able to win parliamentary seats. The second round took place on November 26. A total of 242 candidates competed for the remaining 121 seats. The ruling National Party won 75 seats, the Muslim Brothers Group won 29 seats, Al-Wafd Party won 2 seats, and independent candidates won 9 seats. Second round elections were not held in 3 electoral districts as a result of judicial decisions. The combined result of the first and second phases are as follows: out of 302 confirmed seats, the ruling National Party won 195, the Muslim Brothers 76, other opposition parties 11 seats, and independent candidates won 20 seats. Only 3 women were elected.

The third phase of legislative elections took place on December 1, 2005. They covered 9 provinces: Dakhaliya, Al-Sharqia, Dimyat, Kafr Al-Shaikh, Suhaj, Aswan, the Red Sea, North Sinai and South Sinai. They contained 68 electoral districts, electing 136 parliament members. Only 9 out of 1770 candidates were able to win parliamentary seats in the first round. The second round took place on December 7, with 254 candidates competing over the remaining 127 seats. Muslim Brothers won 12 seats in the rerun round while the ruling National Party won 100 seats and opposition parties won 3 seats. Elections for 12 seats in 6 electoral districts were postponed pending a judicial decision.

The overall results of Egypt's parliamentary elections were as follows: the ruling National Party won 324 seats or 73% of elected members, Muslim Brothers won 88 seats or 20%, other opposition parties won 14 seats (3%) and independents won 6 seats (1.3%). Twelve seats are pending new elections. The overall participation rate was 28.5% of registered voters. Women representation in parliament was very low: only four women were elected, composing less than 1% of membership. However, President Mubarak later appointed five women to the parliament as part of his constitutional power. Only one Coptic (Christian) member was elected, namely the minister of finance Yussef Boutrus Ghali, although Copts comprise 6%-8% of Egypt's population. President Mubarak later appointed five Coptic members of parliament as part of his constitutional powers. Other prominent political leaders and parliamentarians lost their seats. Most prominent among those are Dr. Yusuf Wali, ex-prime minister and deputy leader of the ruling National Party; leader of the majority in parliament Ahmad Abu Zaid; leader of the Workers Union; and the historical leader of the leftist opposition (Tajammu’ Party) Mr. Khaled Muheieddine. The new parliament is composed of 67 representatives of peasants, 161 representatives of workers, and 204 members who represent all other social groups.

The second and third phases of elections witnessed wide scale violence. The police intervened in the third phase and prevented voters who support Muslim Brothers from casting their votes in some provinces. Many judges proclaimed to the media that they witnessed incidents of forgery. Egypt's Judges Club issued a statement on December 2 affirming that the executive authorities did not enable them to have full supervision over the electoral process because the police besieged many polling stations and blocked voters from casting their votes. The club added that it will discuss boycotting any future elections during the meeting of its general assembly on December 16, 2005.

The mid-term renewal elections of the consultative/Shura council (the second chamber of the parliament) took place on June 11, 2007. The renewal elections concerned choosing 88 council members. The number of eligible voters was 23 million who were invited to elect 76 Shura members since 12 candidates who belong to the ruling National Party were declared uncontested winners. The number of candidates was 586, 19 of whom belonged to the "Muslim Brothers" group. Most opposition parties boycotted the elections. In addition to Muslim Brothers, the Rally Party (leftist) and some independents ran in elections. The first round decided the fate of 72 seats, of which the ruling National Party won 70 seats and the Rally Party won 2 seats. All 19 Muslim Brothers candidates were defeated. The Supreme Election Committee claimed a participation rate of about 31 per cent whereas the Egyptian Human Rights Organization estimated a much lower rate of 5 to six per cent of eligible voters. The re-run round took place on June 18, 2007 in 11 provinces. The number of eligible voters was 4.2 million, and the chairman of the Supreme Election Committee claimed that around 800,000, or 19 per cent of the eligible voters, went to the polls. Muslim Brothers did not field any candidates in this round. 32 candidates (23 National Party members and 9 independents) contested 16 seats. National Party candidates won 14 seats and 2 seats went to independent candidates.

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Local Elections

The latest local elections in Egypt took place on April 8, 2008. The number of eligible voters was 35 million and the number of candidates was 70,000 who contested 52,000 local councils seats. The ruling National Democratic Party fielded 55,000 candidates. The number of general electoral committees was 318 and number of local committees was 41,000. In addition to the National Party, four political parties participated in the elections, namely Al-Wafd, The Rally Party, The Nasserite Party and Al-Jeel Party. However, the Muslim Brothers Group, the largest opposition party and the main rival to the National Party declared its withdrawal from elections a few hours prior to voting. The Group said its withdrawal came as a response to the government’s rejection of 4000 candidates nominated by Muslim Brothers although they submitted all required legal documents for their nomination. Moreover, the government had rejected to abide by more than 3800 judicial orders, or decisions in favor of allowing nominees to run in elections. AT the beginning of the voting process, The National Party announced that it won 83% of all local councils seats uncontested. Competition was restricted to 17% of total seats. Final result showed that the National Party won more than 95% of all local councils seats. The ministry of interior did not announce the rate of participation; however, human rights organizations who monitored elections estimated that rate at 5% - 7% only. The Secretary General of the Rally Party agreed with this estimate. Local elections this time gains great importance as a result of the constitutional amendments which committed any presidential candidate to receive the support of 150 local councils members in 10 provinces.

There was no judicial supervision of elections. The Studies Center for Justice, Democracy and Human Rights in Egypt which monitored the electoral process in Cairo and Alexandria said that “there were no elections at all”. The National Center for Human Rights reported some violations including preventing some observers to enter voting centers and expelling more than 80% of observers who represented human rights organizations.

The previous Municipal elections occurred in April 2002. Roughly 70% of the ruling NDP’s candidates ran unopposed. The NDP registered 48,106 candidates out of a total 60,080 candidates registered including opposition and independent candidates. The NDP eventually won 97% of municipal seats. The NDP won 52% of the constituencies unopposed. Voter turnout was very low due to the fact that few opposition or independent candidates ran in the elections in addition to the predetermined results in many districts where there were no opposition candidates. The Interior Ministry claims voter turnout was high but has not given any numbers. The term of these municipal and local councils ended on April 15, 2006. However, on February 12, 2006 the Egyptian consultative council approved delaying these elections for two years, until April of 2008. The president of the consultative council, Mr. Safwat Al-Shareef, claimed that the delay was needed to prepare a new local administration law. He said that expanding administrative decentralization would be a major component of constitutional and legislative amendments in the next phase. The Muslim Brothers group objected to the delay, claiming it was directed at blocking its own progress and weakening its political influence in Egypt.

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National Referenda

The latest national referendum was held in Egypt on 26 March 2007 to confirm the constitutional amendments that were passed by the parliament on 19 March 2007. The amendments included 34 articles on citizenship, economy, political parties formation, public ethics, property, trade unions, elections, State budget, and prerogatives of the Republic's President, and others. The participation rate was around 27% and according to official results, 75.9% of voters were in favor of the amendments.

On 25 May 2005, a national referendum approved the amendment of article 76 of the constitution that changed the presidential election to a multi-candidate popular vote. The participation rate was 53,64% and according to official results 82.86% of voters were in favor of the amendment of Article 76.

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