South Sinai, the capital of the ousted president, where tribal bonds remain the key to unlock political influence is also now the site where members of the dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP) are waging a double-edged war to defend their stalled economic interests.
Salafis bet on tribal bonds
Ibrahim Rafie, former NDP Member of Parliament and head of the Egyptian Bloc list, has openly mocked the term "Islamic tourism." Rafie is an example of the tenants of Sharm El Sheikh projects, whose interests are now colliding with the Islamists. Initially, Islamist party lists lacked heavy-weights or recognisable faces. The FJP list is headed by Ahmed Ibrahim Kassim Amin, a land broker and real estate agent in Sharm El Sheikh with no previous political experience worthy of noting. However, the appearance of Isam El Aryan, one of the most famous names associated with the party, caused Rafie and his colleagues to feel threatened and to lead a strong campaign titled "Our interests lie in tourism."
As for the Salafi Nour Party, they too encountered difficulties in finding the right candidates for both their party list and for the professional and worker categories. In the end they decided to focus on Mohamed Farrag Salem, the son of the Bani Wasel tribe. Wasel will be running for the professional seat and the Nour Party will support FJP party list. The FJP list will be running against lists from the former regime, including the Reform and Development Party, the Union Party, and other newly formed parties such as the New Wafd, Al Wasat, and Freedom parties, who will be competing for a total number of four seats.
NDP remnants, tribal bonds and parties
According to activist Nasser Awad, the second article of the constitution was the focus of most debates before the elections, as everyone tried to demonstrate that its presence would not negatively affect tourism in a region where 75% of the residents rely on the tourism sector. Hajar Islam, a human rights activist who coordinates the campaign "Catch the NDP remnants" believes that the reach of the former regime is widespread in South Sinai. These elements were fully in control of the political life in South Sinai pre-revolution, thus the difficulty of dissolving their influence, she said, noting that members of the previous NDP are found on almost all party lists. Ibrahim Rafie occupies the top position of the Egyptian Bloc list, followed by Sayed Kamal, vice president of the city of Al Tur who also belonged to the NDP. Reform and Development Party's top candidate is Fadeya Salim, a Bedouin lawyer from one of the largest tribes in Sinai, the Muzaina. Salim was also a member of the previous NDP. Similarly, Al Wafd's nominee Rabie Awad is a former parliamentary member who represented the NDP and is again part of another large tribe in South Sinai, the Qararsha.
Migrants also look for seats
Besides the Islamists and remnants of the old regime, migrants and members of indigenous tribes are also contesting each other in the South Sinai district which contains 60,578 voters. Political researcher Nabil Muzaini studies this conflict, where migrants and members of indigenous tribes exchange accusations of treason, a conflict fed by the former regime, which has grown now to include inter-tribal conflicts. According to Muzaini, the Bedouin vote is now weak as it is spread amongst the different competing tribes, with Muzaina tribe entering elections with thirteen candidates, Qararsha with six, Alayqat with four, and the Jabalaya of Saint Catherine with three.
Unlike Muzaini, Colonel Reza Soliman, secretary of Modern Egypt's political party, sees that the large numbers of Bedouin candidates has a great benefit as it ensures the presence of Bedouins especially in the worker category. Since results for the race for the party lists is almost determined, according to Soliman, the greater chance of representation lies with the single seats. The race for the party lists is noWafw between the FJP, the Egyptian Bloc, and Al Wafd, and that they will at least receive an equal share of the top three seats, he said. Political activist Mahmoud Said agrees with Soliman, saying that the race for the single seats is the more important battle as 29 candidates compete, with 20 for the professional seats, and 9 for the worker seats. He adds that most candidates belong to conservative tribes, who are spread in both cities and the desert and have a large influence on voters. Magdi Owais, former secretary of the Lawyers' Syndicate in the governorate is a migrant from the Nile Valley and running for the professional seat. He is relying on other voters from the Nile Valley to support his campaign as he believes this to be their only chance since they are no longer represented on the party lists.
Chances for the success of the Salafi candidate Mohamed Farag are slowly waning after he was attacked by other candidates, particularly Adel Shukri, who calls himself the "tourism candidate." Shukri belongs to the Chamber of Hotel Facilities which is currently supporting his campaign, especially in the cities of Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab and Nuweiba. At these events, Shukri has fiercely attacked his Salafi opponent, calling on everyone to back him represent their interest, even if it conflicts with their tribal loyalties.
*Uncredited pictures provided by journalist.