Al-Ahram Weekly Online   22 - 28 October 2009
Issue No. 969
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

It's all for you

Economic and social justice issues are atop the agenda of the NDP's sixth annual conference, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Click to view caption
Shehab, Mubarak, Hilal and Kamal during a meeting of the Higher Council for Policies on Monday

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) will prioritise economic and social justice at its sixth annual conference, scheduled between 30 October and 3 November.

Gamal Mubarak, chairman of the NDP's Policies Committee, said during a meeting of the Higher Council for Policies (HCP) on Monday that the sixth annual conference will focus on discussing ways to combat poverty and bridge the gap between the rich and poor.

"NDP policies aim to serve poor citizens, be they farmers or workers or young people," said Mubarak. "Upon the NDP's recommendation, the government will seek to get the approval of the People's Assembly to earmark an extra LE10 billion to complete water and sanitary drainage projects in poor villages and districts."

Mubarak also said the 2009/2010 budget will establish the groundwork for the "ration card for every family" project. "This card will be the basis upon which the poorest families will receive cash subsidies in the future," said Mubarak.

NDP Secretary-General Safwat El-Sherif announced the conference would convene under the slogan "For You".

"The word 'you' here includes all ordinary citizens. It means that the NDP's policies are geared to serve the interests of ordinary people," said El-Sherif. "When President Mubarak met with members of the NDP's secretariat-general and chairmen of provincial offices on 10 September he urged them to reassure ordinary citizens that programmes and policies were designed to serve their interests."

El-Sherif said in a dialogue with visitors of the NDP website that the conference will not include an announcement choosing the party's nominee for the presidency elections.

Gamal Mubarak indicated that the agenda of the conference will be focussed around 12 working papers. "These deal with vital issues such as social justice, fighting poverty, investment, employment, agricultural development, housing, education, healthcare and the empowerment of women."

In political terms, he indicated that the coming conference would review progress in implementing President Mubarak's 2005 presidential election programme. He also explained that one of the conference's major objectives is to set the political agenda in the run up to next year's mid-term Shura Council elections and People's Assembly poll. "This conference is significant because it comes at the beginning of an important election year and at a time the economy is registering high growth rates," Mubarak said. "The political programme of President Mubarak has already been translated into action in the form of constitutional and legislative amendments."

He further disclosed that a paper on "the rights of citizenship and democracy would be discussed by the conference, saying that the NDP was particularly proud that amendments to the constitution would give women 64 seats in parliament, "a major step towards women playing a greater role in political life".

Mubarak also revealed that the conference would break new ground by discussing "the challenges facing the book industry in Egypt, the future of cinema and film-making and of document conservation."

El-Sherif said President Mubarak will meet with members of the NDP's steering office in few days to give his final comments on the conference agenda. Besides, El-Sherif added, President Mubarak will deliver a keynote speech at the end of the conference's first day on 30 October.

"President Mubarak will also take part in the concluding session of the conference on 3 November to discuss issues that have arisen with participants."

"On the first day of the conference on 30 October, Secretary-General El-Sherif, Assistant Secretary General Zakaria Azmi and Secretary for Organisational Affairs Ahmed Ezz will deliver speeches," said Gamal Mubarak. In the evening, he added, the party's 45-member higher council will hold a meeting with President Mubarak, after which he will address the conference and the nation.

On the second day, Gamal Mubarak, chairman of NDP's powerful Policy Secretariat, and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, will deliver speeches on the progress made towards implementing President Mubarak's 2005 election programme. Leading officials of the NDP will then meet in the evening with local and foreign media and with foreign diplomats.

On 2 November, the third day of the conference, policies relating to agriculture, housing, citizenship and democracy and health and education will be reviewed. At the end of the day President Mubarak is scheduled to open a dialogue with the party's leading provincial members.

A number of commentators have noted that the political agenda of the NDP conference falls short of addressing opposition demands.

"This conference is significant because it comes ahead of the 2010 parliamentary elections," says Hussein Ibrahim, spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc. "Yet the NDP agenda completely ignores two basic issues: how to ensure the integrity of elections and the fate of the emergency law."

The Muslim Brotherhood is currently coordinating with the Kifaya dissent movement in a campaign to focus attention on the integrity of elections.

Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab insists "the government is aware that the current emergency law will come to an end next May and will decide whether the state of emergency is to continue or an anti-terror law replaces it ahead of that date."

"We want only to strike a balance between securing the rights of citizens and thwarting terrorist threats in formulating anti-terror legislation," Shehab said.

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