Al-Ahram Weekly Online   9 - 15 December 2004
Issue No. 720
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Political reform Egyptian style?

By Samia Farid Shihata

So this is the political reform (tailored to our domestic traditions and not external pressures) we have to look forward to in the new parliamentary session?

First, the ruling party in its grand general conference places the highest priority on presenting parliament with a way to allow military draft dodgers to make their way into Parliament despite the Supreme Court's decision on the illegality of such Parliamentary membership.

Then, after the so-called Parties' Committee, finally decides that it had better allow the formation of the new Al-Ghad Party before being forced to do so by a court decision, the speaker of the Parliament, fearing that (God forbid) we might have some meaningful vocal opposition in Parliament, comes to the rescue by denying the new party its rightful place as leader of the Parliamentary opposition!

Are these the actions of a Parliament bent on moving forward on political reform and widening participation?

As for the first measure in favour of draft dodgers, the mere presentation of such an egregiously unconstitutional measure, is insulting to all Egyptians. How have we come to the point that this is actually presented with a straight face as political reform? We can only pray that the backers of this measure come to their senses and avoid shaming our country in front of the whole world.

As for the denial of the Al-Ghad Party's leadership of the opposition in Parliament, that too seems to be blatantly in violation of the Parliament's own rules. It seems that even a minuscule hope of breathing some life into parliamentary debate must be fought tooth and nail to the bitter end.

While the call for gradualism in our road to democracy may make sense, these latest measures are clearly steps backwards that make a farce of the call for "political reform at our own pace".

This week's Soapbox speaker is former adviser to the Middle East executive director at the International Monetary Fund.

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