The results of the first round of Teaching Syndicate elections have shown that there are no new organized political blocs that have the ability to compete against traditional political powers, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and independent candidates who previously ran on the lists of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party.
The Brotherhood scooped 1113 seats – both for chairpersons and board members – on the boards of syndicate branches in several governorates, including Cairo, Alexandria and Sharqiya. Hundreds of independent candidates also won a considerable number of seats through running on the Brotherhood's lists.
The Teachers Syndicate – Egypt's largest professional syndicate with over 1.2 million members – has 315 provincial offices around the country, each with one chairperson and 15 board members, with a total of 5040 board members across Egypt.
Meanwhile, various independent education movements have issued calls for a strike as the new school year begins on 17 and 18 September, to push for higher salaries and the removal of Minister of Education Ahmed Gamal Eddin Moussa, whom they say is a former regime figure.
Iman Hafez, a member of the Independent Union of Egyptian Teachers, said the elections results reveal that traditional powers still maintain a grip on affairs and demonstrate that there is a web of mutual interests between long-term leaders in Ministry of Education departments and syndicate leaders.
Hafez added that several education movements, such as the Independent Union of Egyptian Teachers and the Syndicate of Independent Teachers, have boycotted the elections citing unfair regulations governing the electoral process.
Current regulations lead to the formation of a board that does not reflect the syndicate's General Assembly of teachers as the regulations serve organized blocs at the expense of independent candidates, who have limited-number lists and who do not belong to well-known political movements.
Even though a Brotherhood leader has said the group is contesting only 40 percent of seats, the group has formed alliances with all factions within the syndicate in order to have its candidates included on their lists or lend its support to their candidates.
Laila Sweif, a member of the March 9 Education Movement, said, “It seems the Brotherhood is determined to win the largest number of seats even if has to include NDP members on its lists.”
The fact that there are only a few new blocs, and they have no electoral experience, allows the Brotherhood to control the elections, she added. Several independent candidates are expected to join Brotherhood lists at the last minute to guarantee their success, she said.
Hassan al-Essawy, spokesperson for Teachers Without a Syndicate, which is part of the Brotherhood in Alexandria, acknowledged the Brotherhood's support for several independent candidates who are not on its lists.
“If it weren’t for the support of the Brotherhood, 84 independent candidates would not have won membership of the subsidiary committees of the syndicate in Alexandria.”
He added that movements calling for a strike on 17 and 18 September do not want stability in Egypt, and achieving the financial demands of teachers would be impossible at this point in time, as the Brotherhood has said in earlier announcements.
Some observers believe that the fact that many teachers are busy protesting may be in the Brotherhood's favor, as those teachers will not take part in the elections.
The Brotherhood’s lists in the elections carried the slogan “Reform and Change.” According to Friday's newspapers, the Brotherhood made major gains in the first round of elections and are likely to do the same in the coming rounds.
Observers reckon that the syndicate elections can be seen as a microcosm for the upcoming parliamentary poll slated for mid-November. In both, the Brotherhood is contesting on a large number of seats, as well as striking agreements with other political forces to create joint electoral lists.