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Sunday, 23 August 2020

Mostaqbal Watan party dominates in first round of Egypt’s Senate elections

We now have 174 new senators representing some 20 governorates following the Senate elections that took place on 9-12 August, head of the National Election Authority Lasheen Ibrahim told reporters on Wednesday (watch, runtime 32:34). The confirmed senators cover all 100 seats allotted to party members in the 300-member chamber and 74 of the 100 seats available for individual candidates.

A run-off set for 8-9 September will determine the outstanding 26 individual candidate seats, and the remaining third (100 seats) will be appointed by the presidency at a later date. The complete list of elected senators is available here. This is the first time Egypt has had an upper house of parliament since the former Shura Council was dissolved in 2012.

The Mostaqbal Watan party led a 100-member pro-government National Unified List coalition that ran unopposed and secured the 100 seats reserved for party lists, after meeting the required 5% of votes to be declared the winner, according to the authority. The party fielded 59 candidates as part of the coalition. Mostaqbal Watan members also won 68 of the 74 individual seats where election results are clear. A total of 797 candidates had competed for the 100 individual seats.

Around eight mn — or 14.23% — of some 62 mn registered voters cast their ballots in the elections here at home and abroad. Ibrahim cited concerns over the covid-19 pandemic and hot weather as reasons for the muted turnout. The elections were monitored by 47 local and 14 international civil society groups, and 33 local and 162 foreign media outlets were credentialed to cover the vote, Ibrahim noted.

What the talking heads had to say: AUC Political Science professor Noha Abu Bakr told Masaa DMC that the turnout for elections to Egypt’s upper house of parliament (formerly known as the Shura Council) historically have low turnout rates. She noted that turnout was further affected by concerns over covid-19, the vacation season, and the fact that many of the candidates were “unfamiliar faces” to voters (watch, runtime 9:23). Sada El Balad’s Ahmed Moussa nonetheless claimed that this year saw the highest number of voters in an election for the upper house (watch, 2:08:23). Al Hayah Al Youm took note of the fresh round of campaigning ahead of the run-off votes (watch, runtime 2:15).

The Senate will convene in the first week of October, constitutional expert Shawky El Sayed told Sada El Balad (watch, runtime 11:01).

So what does a Senate do, anyway? The Senate, which was reconstituted last June under the 2019 Constitution, will weigh in on proposed amendments to the constitution and all laws that are supplementary to the constitution, as well as all pacts or agreements related to sovereign rights. The upper house of parliament will also be consulted on the government’s plans for economic and social development. Parliament’s bill set a 10% membership quota for women in the chamber, whose members will be reappointed or elected once every five years.

Foreign press coverage was largely focused on the turnout rates. Reuters also highlighted Mostaqbal Watan’s dominant performance, while the Associated Press said the Senate has “no real power” as it is an advisory body.

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