9 - 15 September 1999
Issue No. 446
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Rallying to supportBy Gamal Essam El-Din
More than 20 million voters are certain to say "yes" to the nomination of President Hosni Mubarak for a fourth six-year term in a nationwide referendum scheduled for 26 September. Ten days later, on 5 October, President Mubarak will be sworn in before a plenary session of the People's Assembly (PA). Mubarak is also expected to make a speech to the Assembly outlining his new agenda, which is expected to promise political changes. In line with the Constitution, the re-election of the president for a new term should also be followed by a cabinet reshuffle.
In advance of the referendum, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has begun organising a series of public rallies to highlight the political and socio-economic achievements of Mubarak's tenure.
Kamal El-Shazli, NDP assistant secretary-general, announced last week that the rallies were intended to show that the ruling party stands solidly behind Mubarak's renomination. Last June, El-Shazli said, the NDP demonstrated loyalty to Mubarak when its 433 deputies in the PA backed a motion nominating him for a fourth six-year term.
Now, El-Shazli added, with the referendum approaching, the NDP is once again bound to play a major role in highlighting grassroots support for Mubarak. "The rallies are aimed at telling the people that the re-election of Mubarak for a fourth term is necessary to bring to fruition the achievements of his past three terms and for consolidating political and socio-economic stability in this country."
El-Shazli added that a large number of political figures, mainly cabinet ministers and members of parliament, have shown keenness to convey to the people the message that Mubarak's re-election is in the nation's supreme interest, enabling it to continue along the path of comprehensive development and maintaining it as a leading power-broker in the region.
"In Sharm El-Sheikh this week [last weekend], the Egyptian people saw how Mubarak played the leading role in helping the Israelis and Palestinians reach a new accord that will give the Palestinian people a greater share of their rights. They also saw how the majority of world's states esteem this role, viewing it as essential for bringing a comprehensive peace to the entire region," El-Shazli said.
The NDP rallies -- 21 are due in 10 governorates -- were launched last week in Assiut in Upper Egypt. At the Assiut rally, Youssef Wali, the NDP's secretary-general, asserted that under Mubarak's new term, which will officially begin on 13 October, the door will be opened to young people to assume greater responsibilities. "Mubarak is also keen on pursuing economic reform policies while devoting greater attention to the social dimension and the interests of limited-income brackets," Wali said.
The NDP's overall performance, however, has come under sharp criticism from most opposition parties. Various opposition figures and newspapers charged last week that the NDP had lost much of its credibility, mainly because five of its PA representatives have been put on trial on charges of corruption, hooliganism and financial irregularities.
To support their argument, opposition newspapers also cited last month's decision on the part of the Menoufiya governor to refer four deputies, all members of the NDP, to the prosecuting authorities for investigation into alleged financial malpractice.
Wali, who serves as deputy prime minister and minister of agriculture, was also the target of a strident press campaign by Al-Shaab, mouthpiece of the Islamist-oriented Labour Party. However, Ahmed Abu-Zeid, leader of the NDP parliamentary majority, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the anti-Wali campaign was motivated exclusively by malice.
Three weeks ago, a misdemeanours' court found Al-Shaab's editor-in chief, Magdi Hussein, journalist Salah Bedewi and cartoonist Essam Hanafi guilty of libeling Wali. The three were each given a two-year jail sentence and fined LE20,000.
Abu-Zeid also argued that the fact that five NDP deputies are facing trial counts in the party's favour, not against it. "It is an NDP message that nobody in this country, even parliamentary deputies, is above the law," he said.
In a speech two weeks ago to university students in Alexandria, President Mubarak said that he would not hesitate to introduce changes and reform in the coming period.
This call for change was espoused by some national newspapers and magazines. Ragab El-Banna, editor of October magazine, argued that the NDP's system of selecting candidates for parliamentary elections should be reconsidered. "The entire partisan and political life in Egypt should be injected with new blood in the hope that a better and healthier parliamentary life can be achieved," he wrote.