The Presidency in Egypt: Independents and Party Members

The Presidency in Egypt: Independents and Party Members

 In Egypt, from time to time, the names of public figures are put forth as independent candidates in the coming presidential elections. And the media, both in and outside of Egypt, discusses these names that enjoy respectability and credibility in the fields of their professions. Their participation in the presidential elections certainly gives this event the added value it has lacked in similar occasions in the past.

Yet turning such ambitions into reality finds itself faced with many obstacles. Indeed, under the current electoral law, any candidate to the presidency must obtain the support of 250 elected representatives, among them at least 65 members of the People’s Assembly, 25 members of the Shura Council (the upper house of parliament) and 14 members of provincial councils, all of them councils under the effective hegemony of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). This makes any candidacy from outside the NDP subject to the party’s decision. In other words, it is the ruling party itself that selects its competitors in the presidential elections.

There is yet another problem connected to this reality for independent figures, which is that they are forced, despite being independent, to be members of some political party (all Egyptian political parties with the exception of the National Party and the Muslim Brotherhood are feeble and ineffective), which would strip them of their independence as well as of their assets, simply because they would need to plead with a small isolated party to use it to enter the presidential race.

This means that the current law, which was intended to establish diversity in candidacies, places obstacles and impediments to any diversity that would enjoy credibility. This explains calls for changing the law in order to make such diversity effective and not subjected to the decision of the ruling party.

Yet, even assuming that such a change could be implemented, despite being unlikely, and even assuming that an independent candidate could manage to reach the top of the pyramid of power in Egypt, the ability of such a candidate to rule would remain questionable, in view of the nature of such power, its balances and the positions of effective forces within it on the one hand, and, on the other, of the internal security, social and economic challenges that will be faced by any independent president, as well as the difficulty of their being able to ensure the means of resolving such challenges.

Egypt has, in effect, since the establishment of the republican system around 57 years ago, known three presidents. Two of them passed away while holding the office of president, which means that the system strongly relies on the person of the president, and that it has characteristic mechanisms of rule that cannot be found in other republican systems, especially in the West. And it is within the framework of such an Egyptian particularity that one must view the coming presidential elections.

President Hosni Mubarak has not yet said his final word on the issue of his own candidacy, which leaves the door open to all kinds of predictions regarding the candidate of the ruling party. And it is such an open door that feeds a campaign against the Egyptian regime, led by the Muslim Brotherhood in the name of preventing “inheritance”. It is a campaign which those in charge of are trying to justify in form, on the basis that “inheritance” will be from father to son, while purposely disregarding the person of the son, who is General Secretary of the Policy Committee within the ruling party and is immersed in every domestic issue, and masking the political goal behind such a campaign. And if Mr. Gamal Mubarak is equal to other potential candidates before the law, what is more important is the ability to prevent the internal situation from undergoing a major political and security relapse that would drive the country to tremendous unrest aimed at changing the nature of rule, regardless of whether the NDP’s candidate is Gamal Mubarak or another of the party’s major figures.

In this sense, the issue of the coming presidential elections in Egypt exceeds the political identity of its candidates, whether independents or party members, as well as the name of the winning candidate, to become a matter of the ability to restore the true meaning of diversity, an ability the consolidation of which will require a substantial period of time, as well as a different political culture for both parties and electors. Meanwhile, what remains most important is the stability of the situation in Egypt, and preventing it from heading towards the unknown.