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A play on voter sentiment
A play on voter sentiment
The countdown for Egypt’s first ever multi-candidate presidential elections—to be held on Wednesday—has begun. Last week Watani reviewed the election
Sunday, June 24,2007 15:25
by Youssef Sidhom Democrati.net
The countdown for Egypt’s first ever multi-candidate presidential elections—to be held on Wednesday—has begun. Last week Watani reviewed the election programme of President Hosni Mubarak, the National Democratic Party (NDP) candidate. Today, Watani takes a look at the programmes of two other candidates: Noaman Gomaa of al-Wafd party, and Ayman Nour of al-Ghadd. Both candidates’ programmes focus primarily on criticising the present regime and protesting conditions which go back to the pre-reform period, as well as rallying against the NDP’s monopoly over power. These views however, remain nothing but a release of long pent-up anger, and are no alternative for a serious view of the future.

And lest the title of this article gives readers the impression that it concerns al-Wafd and al-Ghadd alone, let it be clear that Mubarak’s programme as well is not free of play on the sentiments of voters. Whether this is an acceptable campaign ploy or an unhealthy device to attract voters, people are bound to discover that many campaign promises never belonged to the realm of reality in the first place.

Among the many examples of play on voters’ sentiments are Mubarak’s promises to “legalise buildings erected outside the urban cordon, to serve the interest of some 15 million residents.” This concerns building which infringe on the dwindling area of Egypt’s agricultural land. Mubarak also promises “for every child, a place in a nearby school; and for every young man, a house.” The question is how and when could this be. Again, he pledges “agricultural plots for 70,000 new owners, and a LE100,000 loan for each.” This alone sums up to some seven billion Egyptian pounds in investment, apart from all the other investment promised. And for hollow sloganeering, MP Mohammed al-Murshedi of the NDP says: “Mubarak’s era is the brightest in democracy and power rotation.”

On his part Noaman Gomaa promises “unemployment aid to every unemployed, a social security network, and fair wages for workers.” Again, how and when? Gomaa also says: “I strongly need your support to win the presidency; then you will all be heads of Egypt; Egypt and all its wealth will be yours; and we will make Egypt great.” So much for hollow sloganeering. As for Ayman Nour, he claims he “will not allow a person to be imprisoned because he defaulted on an instalment for a refrigerator or wash-machine,” and that he “will convert the Agriculture Credit Bank into a ‘Peasant’s Bank’, and end the usury the bank applies with the peasants.” Nour wishes to “abolish the concept of a society based on penalty. We want, he says, a non-penalising society where only real criminals are put behind bars.” He pledges LE150-employment aid to every unemployed, “to be funded out of the benefits of ending corruption and the looting of public money.” And, he claims, “we will not sell natural gas to Israel.” Moreover, Nour believes the Muslim Brotherhood to be “an old noble organisation, with which we share ties of sympathy and respect. If they wish to form a civil party, we have no objection.” How can the Brotherhood, whose raison d’être is the establishment of a fundamentalist regime, form a civil party?!

On the other hand, the programmes of both al-Wafd and al-Ghadd offer serious, positive aspects. Al-Wafd pledges a new Constitution to regain the power of the State, parliamentary elections according to a proportional list, a maximum of two terms for every president, restricting the president’s authority and ensuring his accountability. Al-Wafd also promises to implement the currently inactive law of, literally “Where did you get this from”, or holding public servants to account regarding the sources of their wealth. The party proposes a law to take Cabinet ministers to court for any violation, restricting waste of public funds, ending political corruption and favouritism, and implementing basic reforms in public education, health, and housing. 

Al-Ghadd promises Constitutional reform to limit the authorities of the president, a law to allow taking him or Cabinet members to court, and the freedom to establish political parties. It pledges the abolishment of exceptional rules such as the emergency law, the social prosecutor general, the State security prosecution, and military courts, in addition to releasing all political prisoners. Al-Ghadd also promises to abolish the ministries of justice, media, and religious endowments. It pledges to redistribute development dividends among the various districts in Egypt more equitably and transparently, and to end favouritism. Moreover, the party promises a new concept of Egyptian citizenship, and a unified law of building places of worship. It proposes a New Delta project of urban-rural communities west of the present Nile Delta, and a return to elected village councils and mayors. It also presents a new model for privatisation whereby investment is poured into modernising factories—especially the spinning and weaving plants—before selling them off.

I hope this assessment of the programmes of the NDP, al-Wafd, and al-Ghadd was comprehensive, and apologise for not tackling the programmes of the other parties due to lack of space and time in this weekly paper. The daily papers however have given the matter extensive coverage, so that I feel certain every Egyptian can now head to the polls with confidence. My only caution is against apathy, since it is only through the active participation of each and every one of us that we can safely cross the present phase and move over to the coming one. 

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