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Mubarak and Democracy
There was a time when President Hosni Mubarak had a strangle hold on Egyptian politics, almost choking the life from it. With mounting pressure from inside and outside of Egypt President Mubarak had to make changes to appease the sensibilities of those seeking true democratic reform. What the world saw was the first multi candidate elections since Mubrak gained control 25 years ago, what Egypt
Monday, February 12,2007 00:00
by Hamza Hashem, egyptianpride

There was a time when President Hosni Mubarak had a strangle hold on Egyptian politics, almost choking the life from it. With mounting pressure from inside and outside of Egypt President Mubarak had to make changes to appease the sensibilities of those seeking true democratic reform. What the world saw was the first multi candidate elections since Mubrak gained control 25 years ago, what Egypt saw was an election fraught with irregularities, legal violations, threats, attacks, and an assured outcome that would see Hosni Mubarak ‘democratically’ re-elected.

The surprise came when Mr. Ayman Nour gained between 8%-12% of the presidential votes while Independents won 47 seats (including the Muslim Brotherhood gaining 34 seats). Yes the elections were to be seen as mutli-canidate, with progressive democratic reform paving the way for future political changes, but few expected in an election wideley known within Egypt as being ‘fixed’ , to yeild such gains. Was this change enough to ultimately shake the very foundations of the political dynasty Mubarak has formed? Not yet. However it was enough to concern the President enough that he would begin enacting stricter regulatiuons, as well as persecuting his opposition.

In what President Mubarak has called democratic reformation of the Egyptian constitution, he has propsed 34 ammendments which is seen by many as nothing more then a way to strengthen his position and that of the NDP after loosing political strength to independants during the last elections. While many of the proposed constitutional changes appear nothing more then technical changes, several appear designed to extend the power of parliament. "Some additions are meaningful in theory but may come to be much less than meaningful when viewed in actuality, such as increased power for the parliament," said Dr Mohamed Kadri, Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies

Of course not all changes are the well-intentioned reforms as they being portrayed as; reformulating the roles played by the People’s Assembly, Shura Council with changes to the writ of the bicameral, it is likely to strip both it and the People’s Assembly of the final say on contentious legislature, and If that occurs, the Shura Council would likely lose its role as arbiter of the constitutionality of proposed legislation, to which secretary-general of the Egyptian Greens, (Hizb Al-khodr) Mohamed Awad said "They forget that if the Shura Council has some powers of legislation, with the parliament, it means that the president would have the right in the case of contradictions between the two councils to judge between them. That is more power to the president, not decreasing [his] power."

Among the most controversial, and obviously tactically motivated amendments are changes that will expand and strengthen the ban on establishment of religious parties specifically a move widely seen as a way to limit the influence of The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition party to Mubarak and The National Democratic Party (Although the Political Parties Committee, an affiliate of the NDP dominated Shura Council has refused 12 consecutive applications be it religious or not). The worries over the extent of the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence can even be seen in the fact that local council elections scheduled for 2006 have been delayed until 2008 (presumable to allow the NDP to secure certain questionable areas).

The current governmental security measures have seen over 400 Muslim Brotherhood members jailed on various charges from anti-government demonstrations at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University in December that led to the arrest of 180 students and Brotherhood leaders, to the January 28 event which saw Egypt’s public prosecutor order a freeze on the assets of 29 businessmen considered close to the movement and their immediate families, based on charges of “money laundering and financing an illegal group”. All but one of the 29 including the Muslim Brotherhood’s third-ranking official and financier, Khayrat al-Shater, has been detained over the last few months. Only recently have 16 of them been released by The Cairo Misdemeanor Court which cited “the lack of justification for detention,” for their release. All said in total the frozen assets equal between 87 million and 1.2 billion dollars; “The Muslim Brotherhood activities are financed by its members through their personal contributions and do not rely on companies or businesses”, Muslim Brotherhoods second-ranking official Mohammad Habib said in a statement.

Since the elections we have witnessed moves by the government to eliminate challenges ranging from the imprisonment of Ayman Nour, to Numan Gumma (both presidential canidates) and his impisonment, even the outspoken Talaat Sadat was stripped of immunity and jailed. It is assumed that even the widely popular Amr Mousa, was put into the position of Secretary-General of the League of Arab States in 2001 to remove him from the public spotlight. With the forth coming ammendments, combined with the physical removal of its obstacles can we have any faith in the democratic reforms of President Hosni Mubarak? All Egyptians must stand united against the unfair regime of the current Government and work towards the realization of of true political reforms, representative and beneficial for each Egyptian, not just for the NDP and Mubarak.

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