Initial reports suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood candidates standing in elections for positions in the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate stand to lose majority control to a rival independent coalition for the first time in over two decades.
Brotherhood set for defeat in Doctors Syndicate elections
Copts and Poliltical Islam
Monday ,16 December 2013
The 'Independence' list, a broad coalition of non-Brotherhood candidates, has won 11 of the 12 seats available on the syndicate's main board, according to reports. The Brotherhood's 'Doctors' for Egypt' list won the twelfth vacant seat.
Half of the seats on the syndicate's main board are being contested in the mid-term elections held on Friday, as are half the seats on the board of each of the provincial syndicate branches, present in all 27 Egyptian governorates. The official results are due on Saturday night.
Reports suggest that the Independence list has also won all of the Cairo and Alexandria branch seats.
The results may suggest a historic shift in power at the syndicate.
"At the last elections [in 2011], the Independence list only won six out of the total 24 [main board] seats and that was already considered a great success, in a syndicate historically dominated by the Brotherhood," Ahmed Metwally, a syndicate member and a member of the Doctors Without Rights group, told Ahram Online.
The Independence list includes members of Doctors Without Rights and Tahrir Doctors, both activist groups, as well as independent candidates. It made a first appearance as an electoral coalition in 2011.
"In addition to the almost complete majority we won this time in the general syndicate (11 of 12 seats), we expect that we will garner between 70-75 percent of syndicate branches," said Metwally.
The mid-term elections, which are held every two years, contest half of the general syndicate seats, 12 out of a total number of 24, as well as half of the seats of every governorate branch.
While the Cairo syndicate board has eight seats and Alexandria six, all other governorates have four.
Ahmed Fathi of the Independence list, who has won a seat in the Cairo syndicate branch, told Ahram Online the results were not expected.
"At first we expected to win a majority, but after the elections were postponed and with the current bad weather we thought the turnout would be low and the Brotherhood would garner more. While Brotherhood members always participate in elections, independent members are usually less motivated," he said.
"However, we were surprised to see the turnout higher than expected. Members stood in long queues in the rain. There was a lot of persistence to break the monopoly the Brotherhood had had over the syndicate for the past 21 years, not serving the doctors' interests," Fathi said.
Brotherhood member Ahmed Lotfy, who won a seat in the 2011 elections, blamed the arrests facing the Islamist group for the low results garnered.
"The doctors chose!" he wrote on his official Facebook page, referring sarcastically to his opponents, who described the doctors' vote as a choice to reject the Brotherhood.
"Most doctors chose to stay at home because most of the Doctors for Egypt supporters are not convinced by any election under military rule, and many don’t have ballot boxes in prison," he wrote. He also accused the Coptic Orthodox Church and the military of "channeling voters."
The syndicate's assembly meeting last week saw tense arguments between pro-Brotherhood doctors and supporters of the independent coalition. Arguments erupted when Brotherhood attendees insisted the elections be postponed until detained members are released.
Following the ouster of Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in July, security forces launched a major crackdown on Brotherhood sympathisers, arresting thousands.
One hundred and eighty doctors who are also Brotherhood members have been detained since July.
The assembly agreed to address the prosecutor-general to arrange the detained doctors' release, but refused to postpone the elections, which took place on Friday as scheduled.
In his post, Lotfy said he still believed the results were good considering the circumstances and further challenged the Independence list to fulfill the demands they had made when the Brotherhood had the majority.
Members of the Independence list have long blamed the Brotherhood for the syndicate's perceived weakness in the face of state policies which they argue have led to the deterioration of the health sector.
Lotfy challenged the new board to "show us how the board will regain the doctors' lost rights."
Since 2011, doctors have mobilised to demand an increase in physicians' minimum wage, and better working conditions.
The first nationwide doctors strike, initially campaigned for by Doctors Without Rights, took place in May 2011 and included most public hospitals and several university hospitals. The strikers' demands included increasing doctors' minimum wage and raising the national health budget from 3.5 percent to 15 percent.
The syndicate also held a partial strike from October 2012 to March 2013 to put pressure on the government to meet their demands for increased wages and improved working conditions, particularly for doctors working in the public sector.
Last week, the general assembly announced a partial strike to pressure for an increase in the minimum wage for doctors, to start early in January.
"The Brotherhood this time agreed to the strike planned to start next January, but in 2012 the Brotherhood campaigned against the strike," said Fathi, accusing the Islamist group of having always prioritised "political gains over the interest of the doctors and the profession."
"Now that they want the current government to fail they agree to the strike, but it was not the case when they were in government," he said.
According to Metwally, pro-Brotherhood doctors pushed for negotiations with the government in 2012, while Doctors Without Rights campaigned for a strike.
The details and duration of the strike planned for January will be decided by the new assembly.