Elections in Egypt tend to produce not just one but two solid majorities. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has never, since its creation in 1978, failed to win less than a two-thirds majority of seats in Egypt’s parliament. And since that time, the vast majority of voting-age Egyptians have never bothered to vote. Predictability under a veneer of democracy has given three decades of stability to the most populous and politically pivotal Arab state. But it has also produced a ruling class increasingly remote from an increasingly bitter people.
The general election due on November 28th looks set, as ever, to favour Egypt’s rulers—and to disfavour, perhaps more than ever before, the cause of democracy. The NDP is likely to capture as many as 400 of the 508 seats being contested. Turnout, meanwhile, is unlikely to surpass the 25% of registered voters reached in the last parliamentary poll, in 2005.
But the vote may not lack drama. Banners and noisy rallies have created a carnival air, darkened by ugly clashes between supporters of rival candidates within the NDP, often involving hired thugs, and between backers of the Muslim Brotherhood and the police, whose plain-clothes men often look like hired thugs. At least three people have been killed. The Brotherhood, which is officially banned but fields candidates as “independents”, says some 1,300 of its members have been arrested for brief periods. Some of its candidates have been disqualified, meetings disrupted and posters ripped down.
Although few doubt that the NDP will triumph again, the incoming parliament may look different from the outgoing one. In 2005 the Brotherhood surprised the NDP by winning more than half of the 150 seats it contested, emerging as by far the strongest opposition force in the assembly. Chastened, the ruling party changed rules in the interim. It brought in a constitutional ban on religion-based parties, adding yet another legal obstacle to the Brothers, and inserted a quota of 64 seats for women, perhaps on the assumption that Islamists would be unlikely to contest many of them. No longer would judges oversee the vote, as they had done by time-honoured tradition. Instead, a feebly staffed, government-appointed electoral commission was to run the poll.
Full Article: Egypt’s election: Another charade | The Economist.