Gamal Mubarak launches ruling party’s Battle of Cairo
Gamal Mubarak, Egypt”s rising strongman and heir apparent to his father”s presidential throne, promised to rejuvenate parliament as he launched the ruling party”s legislative election campaign in Cairo.
“The Egyptian parliament will embody the future, inshallah (God willing),” he said Saturday at a gathering in front of Cairo”s Abdeen presidential palace for the presentation of the National Democratic Party”s (NDP) Cairo candidates.
The 42-year-old, who chose not to contest the November polls himself, stole the show once again.
But nearly two months after 77-year-old Hosni Mubarak swept to a fifth six-year term, the party”s young technocrats and official caciques are working hand in glove to secure another electoral victory for the NDP.
Party apparatchiks filled the front rows, backed by some 2,000 supporters — most of them bused from the various constituencies — singing the praises of their leaders.
The parliamentary elections are due to kick off on November 9 and will last a month, as polling will be divided in three successive geographical phases.
The first wave will include the Cairo region, where 523 candidates are contesting the capital”s 48 seats. The NDP currently controls 404 out of the 454 seats in the house.
Egypt”s parliament became a largely toothless institution when an autocratic regime was established half a century ago, but the elections are a backdrop for the NDP”s own internal reforms and the opposition”s efforts to unite.
A relatively small number of candidates are endorsed by a coalition of several mainly secular opposition parties, but no less than 432 are running as independents, a tally which includes many NDP members who did not make the cut.
Most of the other independents are from the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt”s largest opposition force. Their slogan “Islam is the solution” is plastered all over the city.
The Brotherhood is also fielding a “sister”, one of only a handful of women running in the elections. She wears the veil and argues that demanding equality with men “goes against nature”.
In the well-balanced cast of the NDP”s campaign launch Saturday, Gamal Mubarak was given the role of a modern statistics-wielding politician glowing with composure and self-confidence.
“These elections come at a turning point in the history of our country, which is facing new challenges,” said Hosni Mubarak”s youngest son, who many suspect is being groomed for succession.
To tackle these challenges, Gamal Mubarak — who heads the NDP policies” secretariat — outlined the government”s economic programme, promising five percent of annual growth, a rise of 20 percent in exports and of 150 percent in foreign investment.
His various pledges for more housing and better sanitation were interrupted by cries of “Youth and workers, we all love you Gamal”.
The political speech was allocated to NDP secretary general Safwat al-Sherif, who symbolises the regime”s old guard.
After kicking off his address with references to the Koran, Sherif vowed to fight corruption. “Egypt”s judiciary will not allow one single corrupt man to remain free,” he said.
He accused the Muslim Brotherhood of pitting “the cross against the crescent” and hinted that he held them responsible for the riots the previous week in Alexandria over a Coptic play deemed offensive to Islam.
As party boss, he formally introduced each of the Cairo candidates to an enthusiastic crowd. “O children of the capital, the NDP is offering you the elite and the stars,” he gushed.