Building on consensus
Winning the elections might well be the easiest task facing the NDP, reports Omayma Abdel-Latif
The newly re-elected president thanks the voters and his campaign team in a nationally televised speech on Sunday
Among the pro-Mubarak banners that remain following the election campaign is one on the 15 May Bridge. "For more democracy and freedom," it reads, "we support Mubarak." It serves as a reminder, if one were needed, that winning the elections will probably be much easier than delivering on the reform-related promises Mubarak made during the campaign.
As the excitement surrounding Egypt's first presidential elections dies down the NDP faces a series of formidable challenges, not least of which will be putting its own house in order. Analysts noted growing tensions during the course of the campaign between the reformist wing of the party and those generally dubbed the old guard. It was a rift that became obvious with the conspicuous absence of what leading NDP official Mohamed Kamal calls "the founding generation" from the day to day running of the campaign, leading to growing speculation that a number of leading NDP officials, men who have dominated the party for decades, are about to be removed.
Commentators close to the NDP have called for the side-lining of members of the old guard who are now thought to be a liability to the party. "We must ensure that party members who undermined the electoral process by resorting to old tactics are isolated and stripped of any political advantage," wrote Waheed Abdel-Meguid, of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, in Rose El-Youssef. Abdel-Meguid called on the party's reformers to "change the political culture which has dominated the party for years".
One major task, he suggests, is to remove from the NDP's list of parliamentary candidates anyone tainted by corruption. The reformers "should not allow the return of faces that disappeared during the presidential race".
While downplaying the extent of any rift between the new generation and the party's old guard, Kamal emphasises that "the reformers within the party are gaining more space every day." It is the Policy Secretariat, he points out, that will be in charge of preparing the parliamentary election campaign.
"The group that ran the presidential campaign will play a big role in the forthcoming elections," he said, an indication that the reformers now enjoy the upper hand.
So occupied is the NDP with the forthcoming elections that any details of the policies promised during the presidential campaign, including the abolition of emergency laws and a host of other reforms, appear to have been placed on the back burner. The president, said one NDP source, will not be providing a timetable for the implementation of his promises beyond saying that they will happen "in the next six years".
This is unlikely to satisfy opposition groups already disgruntled by what they see as the failure of the NDP to break the long-standing political apathy among Egyptians. They have vowed that they will press the president to make good his promises of further reform and will watch carefully for any signs of backtracking on the part of the NDP.
"The various movements for change will seek to further pressure the regime," says Hossam Eissa, a Cairo University law professor . "They will try to mobilise popular support by raising the very issues -- tackling unemployment and poverty -- that were central to the Mubarak campaign."
If voter turnout figures are anything to go by, the NDP faces an uphill battle convincing the electorate it is serious about reform. It may be even more difficult convincing the opposition.
"They are acting as though the elections were a real competition," says Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood. "But they are just a bunch of charlatans who tried to make the president believe he was fighting a real battle. The election was an attempt to deceive the Egyptian people and the regime's legitimacy will remain in question."
While it is understandable that people are skeptical about the NDP's intentions to reform, says Kamal, the party's interest in political reform is genuine.
"We cannot change the legacy of 50 years overnight, he argues. "But hopefully the presidential election, followed by parliamentary elections, will convince the sceptics that the political will exists within the NDP to push forward with a programme of reform."
Many analysts argue that it is up to the NDP to end the state of political polarisation that has increasingly come to characterise Egypt's political scene by engaging in serious dialogue with forces from across the political spectrum.
"Addressing the issue of national dialogue will be the crucial test of the seriousness of political reform," says Abdel-Meguid.
Others beg to differ. Abdallah El-Sinawi, editor of Al-Arabi, mouthpiece of the Arab Nasserist Party, believes there are four key challenges that need to be faced during Mubarak's fifth term. The issue of succession remains among the most contentious in contemporary politics. "At a time when the country is anticipating a new political structure the scenario of young Mubarak succeeding his father will no longer wash," wrote Sinawi. Mubarak must also be seen to deliver on his economic and political promises. His fifth term must also see the Muslim Brotherhood recognised as a political force, allowing them to integrate within the political system. The fourth item on the presidential agenda, says Sinawi, should be a revision of the role of the military establishment as the country enters a new stage "in which the president is chosen through the ballot box and not in the army barracks".