Parliamentary campaigns begin with a whimper

Wednesday marked the first official day of campaigning for what are expected to be Egypt’s first free and fair parliamentary elections, but the day was largely devoid of any major campaigning.

Many political forces are saying they will launch serious campaigning in the coming weeks, especially after Eid al-Adha, which begins on Sunday.

In Giza, Al-Masry Al-Youm reporters saw neither concerts, rallies nor even campaign posters. There was, however, a poster congratulating Muslims for Eid and encouraging people in the electoral district to give charity for the holiday. 

The Revolution Continues Coalition, which is running for list-based seats and includes the Egyptian Current Party, a reformist Muslim Brotherhood spin-off, as well as the Socialist Popular Alliance Party and four others, limited its first day of campaigning to announce its platform in a press conference.

At the conference, the coalition also introduced some of its more prominent candidates, such as Tayseer Fahmy, an actress, and Mohamed Abbas, a member of the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition. Islam Lotfy, the co-founder of the Egyptian Current Party, said that though some candidates are already campaigning, the coalition has not begun its central campaign work.

The Ittihad (Union) Party, founded by Hossam Badrawy, a former MP and leader of former President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), didn’t begin its parliamentary campaign Wednesday, but plans to start during Eid by distributing fliers and hanging banners in the streets.

According to founding member Reda Saqr, the party is behind schedule because the Supreme Judicial Commission for Elections only issued the electoral lists of individual candidates Wednesday, delaying the printing of any campaign publications. 

The Horreya (Freedom) Party, founded by Moataz Mahmoud, a former member of the NDP’s policy secretariat, chose to postpone its campaign until an administrative court decides on their 11 candidates whose candidacies are being contested by the Supreme Judicial Commission for Elections. The court should make a decision no later than 7 November.

“This is a priority at the moment. These candidates were contested for no reason,” said Mahmoud Nafady, the secretary general of the party’s Cairo branch. 

Nafady added that Horreya Party has the third largest number of candidates across the country, after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Wafd Party. The party is fielding 357 candidates for the People's Assembly and 100 candidates for the Shura Council.

The Egypt National Party, founded and headed by Talaat al-Sadat, who was briefly the head of the NDP before it was disbanded, also did not start its parliamentary campaign Wednesday, as one of its candidates on the party list in Monufiya Governorate withdrew early in the morning. 

The withdrawal caused disorder in the party, as Sadat scrambled to find a replacement, said Amal al-Kholousy, the party’s media spokesman.

“We are suspecting it’s an act from an enemy party trying to undermine us, but we overcame it in a short period of time as we always have replacements,” said Kholousy.

Some groups, however, are kicking off their campaign seasons.

The Salafi-led Nour Party launched a charity market in Fayoum for Eid and promised to distribute meat for free or discounted prices during the holiday.

On Tuesday, Mahmoud Ghozlan, a Brotherhood spokesperson, confirmed that the Freedom and Justice Party will use the slogan “Islam Is the Solution,” contrasting with earlier reports that the party would refrain from using the phrase.

The group has obtained court rulings indicating that the use of the slogan is legal, Ghozlan said. In October, Egypt's ruling military council issued amendments to parliamentary elections law banning the use of religious slogans in campaigns.

"Electoral campaigns based on the use of religious slogans, or on racial or gender segregation, are banned," said the provision in the election law.

This month, number of political parties – including those of Islamists, said that they object the Brotherhood using such a slogan, as it implies the group is monopolizing the religion.

The centrist Adl Party said that their campaigning consists of activities on the ground. The party is sending out small groups to engage people in cafes and knock on doors to familiarize the electorate with the party's candidates and platform. They are also relying on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to spread the word.

"We are a party composed mainly of youth and we are mobilizing them to campaign in the field. We don't have much resources to advertise on television so we're relying on the internet for the campaign," said Ahmed Shokry, a member of the party’s high council who is running for parliament in Daqahlia Governorate.

The party will also hold events outside of Cairo at some point in the future, Shokry added.

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