The Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral bloc has been voted out of its historic stronghold, the Doctors Syndicate.
Members of the group have dominated the syndicate’s councils for more than 20 years. Friday’s mid-term elections revealed the extent of the Brotherhood’s losses in both the Doctors General Syndicate and in 27 regional branch syndicates across the country.
The Independence Current, a coalition of liberal, centrist and left-leaning physicians, captured 11 out of the 12 contested board seats in the Doctors General Syndicate. Members of the current also defeated the Brotherhood-led Doctors for Egypt bloc in most syndicate branches in the governorates.
Candidates of the Doctors for Egypt bloc were, however, voted in for all seats open in the Fayoum, Qalubiya and Daqahlia governorates, as well as gaining a majority on the boards of the branch syndicates in Wadi al-Gadeed, Kafr al-Sheikh and Gharbiya.
Results in Monufiya, Luxor, Red Sea, North Sinai, Sharqiya and Sohag were divided almost equally between the Independence Current and Doctors for Egypt.
Candidates from the Independence Current were more successful in Cairo, Alexandria, Minya, Assiut, Beni Suef, Qena, Aswan, Ismailiya, Suez and Matrouh, winning all of the seats in those branch syndicates. In Beheira and Giza, the current won around 75 percent of the seats.
The Muslim Brotherhood has historically held sway over the boards of professional syndicates; in particular the Engineers and Lawyers Syndicates. Since the 1980s, the group has also dominated associations of the medical profession, including doctors, dentists, veterinarians and, to a lesser extent, pharmacists.
The Independence Current now has a majority 15 out of 24 seats on the General Syndicate’s council. Elections in 2011 gave the Brotherhood bloc a firm grip over the council, holding 19 out of the 24 seats plus the post of the syndicate’s presidency.
On Saturday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper marked the defeat of the Doctors for Egypt bloc with the headline: “Brotherhood loses its 28-year rule over the Doctors Syndicate.”
According to the report, a majority of doctors chose to vote against the outlawed group. The Brotherhood was banned by a court ruling in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s removal from office on July 3.
However, in all the years the group dominated the syndicate under the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, it was also a banned group. Saturday’s results, then, are about more than the ban, and reflect a broader societal shift against the group. There has been widespread approval of the crackdown on Brotherhood members and their supporters since Morsi’s ouster.
Mid-term elections were postponed for 19 years under Mubarak’s rule. Following the long-overdue general elections of 2011, Khairy Abdel Dayyem of the Doctors for Egypt bloc was elected to the post of General Syndicate president. He will remain in the post until the next election, which is scheduled for 2015.
Friday’s unusually cold weather and heavy rain may have contributed to the low voter turnout, which averaged less than 40 percent at most polling stations.
Despite the weather, however, there was vigorous campaigning and leafleting outside Cairo’s Qasr al-Aini Teaching Hospital by supporters of both blocs as well as unaffiliated candidates.
The two main blocs had mobilized and transported many of their supporters to the polling station set up inside the hospital’s conference hall. A large number of buses, all bearing the campaign banners of candidates, parked outside the hospital.
“In light of the poor weather conditions today, we witnessed a medium turnout,” said Ahmed Fathy, a campaigner for the Independence Current.
“These elections are transparent, free and fair. We will respect the results, regardless of who wins or loses, for this is the democratic will of Egypt’s doctors,” Fathy said.
Judges oversaw the voting process at polling stations throughout the country, he said.
Standing at the entrance of the conference hall, Abdel Wahab Mohamed distributed fliers and booklets detailing the electoral program of Doctors for Egypt.
“Today’s elections affect not only Egypt’s doctors, but its hospitals and patients,” he said.
Doctors for Egypt, he explained, is seeking to “improve the working conditions and rights of doctors nationwide, together with a more comprehensive and successful health care system, which should be available to all Egyptians.”
He continued, “We want to raise doctors’ salaries and improve healthcare facilities, especially in public hospitals, where full-time doctors are paid only a few hundred pounds per month.
“If salaries and medical conditions are not improved, doctors will find themselves unable or unwilling to work in these hospitals. Or, as happens every day, they’ll be eager to finish their work there to go work at private hospitals or clinics to supplement their poor incomes.”
He made no comment on calls for a strike made by Doctors for Egypt during last week’s general assembly meeting.
The Brotherhood were opposed to strike action taken by doctors in 2011 and 2013, which was led primarily by Doctors Without Rights, an affiliate of the Independence Current.
The Brotherhood’s bloc has called for a “gradual and escalatory strike” to begin this coming January, as part of its demands for the release of more than 100 doctors jailed since Morsi’s removal. The call for strike action was denounced by many doctors.
“Both the Independence Current and Doctors for Egypt are in a political power struggle over the syndicate seats,” said Alaa Refai, an unaffiliated physician.
He criticized the “politicization” and “polarization” of the Doctors Syndicate along party lines.
“Unfortunately, both groups are fighting for their immediate interests, not for the professional interests of doctors as a whole,” he said.