I. The political environment of elections:
Elections of the Egyptian House of Representatives were held in the fourth quarter of 2020. This is the second parliamentary election held under the current political system, and the first after the constitutional amendment in 2019. The House of Representatives elections come with a new stage in Egypt’s political system that is full of confidence and trust, after a serious threatening stage. As confidence rises and threats decline, issues of representation and participation move high on the priority agenda.
Parliamentary elections 2015
The House of Representatives elections in 2015 were held at a special and unique stage, in which the nascent political system faced serious existential challenges. On June 30, 2013 millions took to the streets, rejecting the Brotherhood regime. On July 3, the transitional phase began, and the head of the Supreme Court, Adly Mansour took the presidency office for a one-year transitional period. The situation was very serious, where the defeated Muslim Brotherhood group did not accept defeat, and they sought to return to power by every means, including violence and terrorism, which is not uncommon to the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood assuming power in Egypt was a dream they have been pursuing for more than eighty years. The Brotherhood’s control over Egypt was never a stand-alone mission, but rather a part of a broader plan. The Brotherhood’s dream does not stand at the borders of Egypt, but includes the entire Islamic East, especially the Arab world, which is the cultural and spiritual heart of the Muslim world. The Brotherhood and its allies are aware that Egypt is the key to the Arab world. From Egypt, the most influential movements and initiatives that affect the region’s future emerge over the last 200 years, starting from national state and political and cultural modernity to the Brotherhood, Arab nationalism and socialism.
The Brotherhood has previously had control over some neighboring Arab states, but this has not allowed them to have influence on countries in the region. Since Omar Al-Bashir’s coup in Sudan and for the following 30 years, Sudan was under the rule of the Sudanese branch of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood tried to turn Sudan into a starting base of control over the neighborhood. Their specific target was Egypt. They used their control over Sudan to turn it into a platform to take over Egypt. They encouraged extremist terrorist groups and were involved in the assassination attempt of former President Hosni Mubarak, to make Egypt unstable and use this to have Egypt under their control. The Brotherhood’s plan in Sudan failed, and their actions have burdened Sudan with division and poverty.
The Brotherhood was not alone in the battle of taking control over Egypt. A large coalition of regional powers ruled by Brotherhood parties, particularly Turkey, and small regional opportunistic powers that are trying to rise on the ruins of the countries in the region (like Qatar), backed the Brotherhood.
There was also the United States and other European countries that wanted to make a deal with the Brotherhood, according to which they would control Egypt, and gradually other countries in the region, in exchange for the Brotherhood to stop the harm of the extremist Brotherhood currents to Western countries. The West were terrorized after the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the subsequent terrorist attacks in London, Madrid and Paris. While the conservatives decided to confront extremism and terrorism with the same weapon, liberals and leftists felt that the best way to stop terrorist attacks was to appease them. They thought there was no harm in helping them to assume power in Arab and Muslim states, so that their hunger for power and control would be fulfilled and they would be out of reasons to attack the west again. All what the Brotherhood needed was to succeed in one election, to facilitate bringing the deal out, even if this election was the last, it didn’t matter because democracy was not the goal, but what was important is to empower the Brotherhood. When the Brotherhood won the majority of votes in the 2011 elections, the deal was ready to be implemented.
The 30 June Revolution ruined the schemes of the Brotherhood and its regional and international allies. This is the secret to the hatred for the June 30 regime and its leadership. The members of this alliance did not concede defeat, the adversaries bet on the collapse of the regime, and the Brotherhood tried to take over power again. The Brotherhood spared no effort to personalize the power struggle, and to falsely portray what was going on in Egypt. They represented the picture as if power had been seized by ambitious officers, whereas the truth is that they were ousted by a popular revolution in which the majority of the nation, and most of its living political powers, participated.
In this atmosphere, the 2015 parliamentary elections were held. The main objective of the 2015 elections was to stabilize the state, which was under attack. It was necessary to complete building the constitutional institutions of the State, to emphasize that this system is born to remain, build its institutions and operate in accordance with agreed rules. The nascent political regime was fighting a war of survival, and it was necessary and logical for the elected Parliament to be an additional line of defense, and become one of the means to counter the vicious attack. The aim is to strengthen the state and help it to withstand the enormous pressure that has brought down many states in the region. The primary task of this stage was reflected in the name chosen by the majority coalition in parliament, Egypt’s Support Coalition, a parliamentary coalition tasked with stabilizing the state.
The circumstances that accompanied the 2015 Parliament were very pressing, and it was necessary to act with determination and speed to defeat terrorism security-wise, and to achieve rapid development leaps that would respond to the old aspirations of citizens that had been neglected for years, and to the new ones that the years of revolutionary momentum had set in motion. The stage required more actions than words, and it gave certain priority to the executive authority, which is concerned with actions, and less concerned with words. All this was reflected in the composition of the parliament and the way its work is conducted.
Parliamentary elections 2020 (the Senate and House of Representatives)
Five years later, the second election was held. The five years preceding these elections have been years of genuine action. In terms of security, terrorism has been defeated. It’s true that there have been scattered terrorist cells in north Sinai, but they are busy with hiding and protecting themselves rather than directing new attacks, except very sporadically.
In terms of development and construction, the preceding five years had been successful. Egypt has implemented the drastic economic reform known in 100 years. It has burdened the people a lot, but they reaped the rewards as the rates of unemployment, inflation and Egyptians falling below the poverty line have declined, and growth rates have increased. There is still a long way to go, but when comparing Egypt and Tunisia, the two Arab countries that passed the so-called spring test without falling into the trap of failed states and civil wars, shows Tunisia’s GDP declined by 12 percent in 2010-2019, down from $44.05 billion to $38.8 billion, and average per capita income in the same period fell by 18 percent, down from $4,130 to $3,370. Despite the decline, Tunisia’s average per capita income is still higher than Egypt’s, although Egypt is making big leaps to cross the gap in a short period of time. Although Egypt’s population growth rate is double that of Tunisia, in 2010-2019 Egypt’s GDP increased by 34 percent, rising from $218.98 billion to $303.09 billion, while the average per capita income increased by 13 percent, from $2,370 to $2,690 per capita, during the same period.
In this context, the 2020 parliamentary elections have been organized. The Egyptian state is satisfied with the level of safety achieved. It is also satisfied with the level of economic development achieved. The worst is behind us, and the Egyptian state has more confidence and is ready to move from the stage of state stabilization forward to the stage of unlocking potentials.
This has been reflected in the political sphere by the expansion of public debate and the trend towards the formation of a kind of national front. It is the major party coalition that joined the National list which won all the seats allocated to the lists in the parliamentary elections. We have moved from Egypt’s Support list in the 2015 elections to the National list in the 2020 elections. The change of the name has many indications; the most important is that the Egyptian political system has moved beyond the stabilization of the state towards enabling national powers to be represented in Parliament.
The National List included 12 parties, representing regime parties, including liberal opposition parties; such as Reform and Development Party, and leftist opposition; such as National Progressive Unionist Party and Egyptian Social Democratic Party. These parties are keen on the survival of the system and the survival of the main determinants of the existing political equations, despite their different views on policy issues. The joining of all of these parties on the National List, without imposing restrictions on parties that are not participating in the same list shows the intention to achieve appropriate political openness in the next phase.
There has been a major renewal of the lists of candidates in these elections, and there has been a major change in the members of parliament. The reason behind this is the direction of the Egyptian political regime to develop and shed light on its new political elite, while the inherited elite from the era of Mubarak is retired almost once and for all. In this sense the 2020 elections will remain a milestone in Egypt’s political history, because it is the year when a new parliamentary and political elite was born, replacing the old ones once and for all.