Who's who in Egypt's election

Today Egyptians are wrapping up the first of several rounds of voting for the first Egyptian parliament since the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak. Two-thirds of the parliamentary seats will be chosen via a proportional list system, and the other third will be chosen as individual candidates.
Every voter will choose two candidates from their governorate and one local list of candidates, often including candidates from multiple parties. The more votes a list gets, the more candidates on its list will be in parliament.

Below are the options facing Egyptians as they go to the polls. 

The Democratic Alliance for Egypt

An Egyptian woman stands in front of a campaign banner in Arabic that reads, 'The Freedom and Justice party,' on the second day of parliamentary elections in Alexandria, Egypt, Tuesday. Polls opened Tuesday for a second day of voting in Egypt's landmark parliamentary elections, the first since Hosni Mubarak's ouster in a popular uprising earlier this year. (Tarek Fawzy/AP)

The Democratic Alliance for Egypt, which counts among its members the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), was the first electoral coalition to emerge after Egypt’s uprising. The alliance extended an offer of membership to every party in Egypt, and began with 28 parties. Its membership surged to 40 at one point, but has since dropped to 11 and is now dominated by the FJP.
According to Egypt Elections Watch – produced by online magazines Jadaliyya and Ahram Online with the Arab studies programs at Georgetown University and George Mason University – the FJP tops the Alliance’s electoral lists.

The FJP is fielding more than 500 candidates in the parliamentary elections, compared with only 16 from Al Karama Party and 15 from Ghad Al-Thawra. These are the only significant parties other than FJP that are left in the alliance, according to Egypt Elections Watch.
Some prominent parties who were initially members left the coalition:

  • Al-Wafd Party – this liberal party left the coalition in October, saying that there wasn’t enough room for both parties on the Alliance’s electoral lists; the incompatibility between the FJP’s Islamist agenda and Al-Wafd’s secular emphasis created problems.
  • Al-Nour Party – this Salafist party said it left because it was being “marginalized” by the liberal parties in the Alliance’s decisionmaking process; some observers say it actually left because the Brotherhood was crowding out its candidates at the top of the lists. 
  • Democratic Front Party – said it left because a partnership with Islamist groups violated its principles
  • Al-Tagammu Party – objected to Islamist members’ calls for the establishment of an Islamic state and sharia

The Egyptian Bloc

This coalition is often described as a “secular-leaning” counterbalance to the FJP-dominated Democratic Alliance for Egypt according to Egypt Elections Watch.

The coalition brings together parties that support a state based on the separation of religion and politics. The parties are: the Free Egyptians Party, Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and Al-Tagammu Party.

The coalition claims to promote a liberal economy with a commitment to social justice. But it’s unclear what concrete economic positions it will take because the Free Egyptians Party is pro-business and the Al-Tagammu Party is socialist and has fought economic liberalization. It has also pushed for the adoption of principles that protect individual liberties and rights. 

It began with more than 20 parties, but disagreements over how to share seats on the electoral lists prompted many parties to defect. Some parties cited the participation of ex-members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) –  the ruling party during former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime – as their reason for leaving. 

Half of the 412 candidates the coalition is fielding in the parliamentary elections come from the Free Egyptians Party, while 40 percent come from the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and 10 percent from the Al-Tagammu Party. 

The bloc is expected to have a strong showing among Egyptians seeking a secular state and looking for a counterbalance to Islamist groups, although the defections may split the secular vote significantly.

The Revolution Continues Alliance

The Revolution Continues Alliance (RCA) includes liberals, Islamists, and socialists and, perhaps most notably, many youths who were formerly members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of the parties were originally members of the Egyptian Bloc.

The alliance’s members include the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPA), the Egyptian Socialist Party, the Egyptian Current Party, the Egyptian Freedom Party, Equality and Development Party, the Revolution’s Youth Coalition, and the Egyptian Alliance Party. The SPA is the only party with the proper authorization to contest seats in the election, so almost all RCA candidates will be listed under its name.

The RCA’s platform is focused on social justice, closing the income gap, ending corruption, and reestablishing law and order. It also plans to pass a national budget with unemployment benefits and more state spending on health care, education, and public housing.

Of the 280 candidates the Alliance is fielding in the election, 100 are younger than 40 and the majority of them are SPA members, according to Egypt Elections Watch. Two electoral lists will have women listed in the top spot – one from the Egyptian Socialist Party and one from the Equality and Development Party.

Some parties threatened to defect, saying that SPA was marginalizing the youth groups, but negotiations resulted in an acceptable distribution of seats for all parties.

The alliance planned to boycott the parliamentary elections in response to SCAF’s violent crackdown on protests, but reneged on that vow ahead of the election, Ahram Online reports.

The Alliance for Egypt

The Alliance for Egypt, also known as the Islamist Bloc, is made up of three Islamist parties – the Salafist Al-Nour Party and Al-Asala Party and the Building and Development Party. All three were previously members of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, but left because of the small share they were receiving in the party’s electoral lists.

They are expected to pose stiff competition for the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, particularly FJP candidates. Voters who favor Islamist candidates previously had little choice but to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood, but now there is a wider selection of groups. 

The alliance plans to field 693 candidates, contesting all available seats, and 610 of those candidates will come from Al-Nour, the largest Salafist group in Egypt and the first to be registered as a political party. Its roots are in Alexandria, where fellow Salafist party Al-Asala has decided not to run any candidates in deference to Al-Nour. Al-Asala became well-known after the January 25 revolution and draws its support from the Cairo area. 

Al-Nour spokesman Nader Bakkar said the central goal of the bloc is “the application of Sharia in a gradual way that suits the nature of society” – in other words, applying Islamic law in a way that won’t alienate Egyptians and “relies on science in pursuing progress and prosperity.” 

The bloc’s handling of female candidates and positions on women’s rights have been controversial, emphasizing the need to keep women and men separate while still fielding dozens of female candidates in order to comply with quota laws. Many salafists do not believe that women should vote and party leaders have stressed that they are only fielding female candidates out of necessity.