Cabinet ministers kick off campaigns

Cabinet ministers kick off campaigns

The ruling National Democratic Party’s (NDP) electoral colleges are due to meet on 29 September to select candidates for November’s People’s Assembly election.

A total of 2,788 NDP members registered as possible candidates, says the party’s Secretary-General Safwat El-Sherif. “This number will be filtered before the final list of 508 candidates is announced.”

El-Sherif argued that tougher selection rules this year were responsible for a drop in the number of hopeful candidates. In a press conference held on 15 September he announced that “potential candidates should seek the support of electoral colleges which include the NDP’s leading officials in their districts”.

“Competition among NDP members in electoral colleges should be tough and fair, reflecting the party’s democratic internal decision-making process.”

During the second stage of the selection process candidates will vie for the support of all NDP members in their districts in internal elections expected to be held between 2 and 17 October. The NDP’s two million members, says El-Sherif, are expected to participate in these internal elections. NDP candidates will then face the court of public opinion via opinion polls.

Although El-Sherif advised that election campaigns commence after the final list of candidates is announced, many hopefuls have already rolled up their sleeves in preparation for the poll, not least the eight cabinet ministers who will complete the selection process unopposed.

Minister of Local Development Abdel-Salam Al-Mahgoub, who registered as a possible candidate in Alexandria’s district of Al-Raml, has already ratcheted up his campaign. El-Mahgoub will face a strong challenge from Sobhi Salah, a lawyer and one of eight Muslim Brotherhood MPs from Alexandria. On 17 and 18 September El-Mahgoub, accompanied by an estimated 3,000 supporters, toured Al-Raml’s poorest neighbourhoods and vowed to modernise the district. El-Mahgoub, a former chief intelligence officer and governor of the northern Mediterranean city of Alexandria between 1995 and 2006, told citizens that he was proud to have “secured the great renovation of Alexandria, reinstating its old position as the bride of the Mediterranean”.

The Muslim Brotherhood says it has completed a preliminary list of 10 candidates in Alexandria.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab, who is standing in the Alexandria district of Moharrem Bey, has also fired the opening shots in his campaign. In a meeting with leading NDP officials and Alexandria governor Adel Labib, Shehab urged the Higher Election Commission (HEC) to ensure candidates do not raise religious slogans. Since the Muslim Brotherhood and opposition parties are not expected to field anyone against Shehab, he is likely to win the seat unopposed.

In the Juhayna district of Sohag Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Nasreddin Allam was also busy appealing to voters. Allam was keen to court Coptic voters, promising that he would press for easier permission to renovate churches and even get licences to build new ones. Allam does not face any rival candidates.

In the Nile-Delta governorate of Menoufiya members of the families of President Mubarak and his predecessor, Anwar El-Sadat, face an uphill battle. In Shebin El-Kom, the capital of Menoufiya, Amin Mubarak, President Mubarak’s cousin and the former chairman of parliament’s Industrial Committee, is vying for the NDP nomination. In the 2005 elections Mubarak lost to Muslim Brotherhood candidate Ragab Abu Zeid.

In the industrial district of Quesna Mohamed Mubarak, another of the president’s cousins, announced that he would run as an independent rather than NDP candidate. In the district of Tala, Mohamed, Talaat and Effat, the three sons of Esmat El-Sadat, the brother of President Sadat, kicked off their election campaigns last week. Mohamed and Talaat will run as independents while Effat, a businessman, plans to run as an NDP candidate.

The biggest surprise came on 15 September when NDP officials allowed Mustafa, son of the governor of Damietta Fathi El-Baradei, to register his name as a possible candidate in the district of Kafr El-Zayat in Gharbiya. Governor El-Baradei, the cousin of ex director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El-Baradei, was the NDP’s Kafr El-Zayat candidate in the 1995-2000 parliament. Mustafa, an engineer, is a member of the NDP’s Policies Committee led by Gamal Mubarak, the younger son of President Mubarak.

The fact that Mustafa El-Baradei was allowed to register 18 days after the nomination period closed is, fear some analysts, a sign that the NDP’s choice of candidates will be plagued by favouritism and influence-peddling.

NDP business tycoon and Secretary for Organisational Affairs Ahmed Ezz begged to differ. Ahead of the meeting of NDP’s electoral colleges on 29 September, Ezz insisted that “the NDP’s leadership has not given a green light to favoured candidates to secure official nomination.”

During a meeting with NDP officials in Damietta, Ezz vowed that “the selection of NDP candidates via electoral colleges and internal elections will be marked with integrity and transparency”.

“I emphasise that favouritism is unacceptable. All NDP candidates, even cabinet ministers, will be dealt on an equal footing. Those who believe they can seek the mediation of high-ranking officials to guarantee their selection will face a shock.”

Ezz stressed that he has stopped taking telephone calls from possible candidates. Popularity, good reputation, communication with ordinary citizens and a record of achievements would, he said, determine who was selected as the party’s candidates.

Ezz himself faces an uphill battle against Mohamed Kamel, a businessman who belongs to the Wafd Party, in the Menoufiya district of Menouf.