16 - 22 September 1999
Issue No. 447
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Rallying for MubarakBy Gamal Essam El-Din
Prior to a nationwide referendum scheduled for 26 September for the re-election of President Hosni Mubarak, who acceded to the presidency in 1981, for a fourth six-year term, leaders of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and cabinet ministers have been touring provinces to address pro-Mubarak public rallies. Outlining the achievements of the Mubarak regime, they placed special emphasis on the president's landmark economic reform programme and rational foreign policy which spared Egypt costly involvement in military ventures. They also condemned the attack against the president last week and urged people to demonstrate their love and esteem of their president by saying "yes" to Mubarak in the referendum. Altogether, the NDP is organising 27 rallies between 5 and 22 September.
The most significant rally was held last Friday in Port Said. More than 10,000 inhabitants of the city, which was the scene of a foiled knife attack on Mubarak, were eager to demonstrate support for the president. Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, officiated at a "prayer of thanks" that the president's life was saved, and told worshippers that the re-election of Mubarak was a religious duty, as he proved to be a man of ethics and principles.
The city's NDP deputies, speaking for its inhabitants, strongly condemned the attack, affirming that the "assailant is not one of us." El-Badri Farghali, a member of the leftist Tagammu Party, said opposition parties would also organise a rally in Port Said to show support for Mubarak.
In the governorate of Menoufiya, from which the president hails, more than 20,000 Menoufiya residents marched last Thursday to the Municipal Council at the town of Al-Bagour to express support and demonstrate loyalty to Mubarak. Al-Bagour is the hometown of Kamal El-Shazli, minister of state for parliamentary affairs and the NDP's assistant secretary-general. The rally, which coincided with Farmers Day celebrations on 9 September, was addressed by El-Shazli and five other cabinet ministers.
Youssef Wali, minister of agriculture and the NDP's secretary-general, said that "Mubarak achieved stability for Egypt and is making great efforts to bring peace to the entire region." Wali also announced that the president, upon the request of millions of farmers and villagers, had given instructions that a comprehensive plan be worked out to allocate additional plots of land to housing construction. "This will give limited-income groups the opportunity to own a housing unit, since construction on agricultural land is banned by law," said Wali.
At a public rally, crowds pledge their support for President Mubarak for a fourth term
photo: Abdel-Aziz El-Nimr
The rally was also addressed by Menoufiya governor Adli Hussein, who has been at loggerheads with El-Shazli after the former decided to refer four Menoufiya NDP deputies to prosecution authorities. The two fell out again when Hussein decided last week to refer Mohamed Abdel-Ati, head of Al-Bagour city council, to the Supreme Court of Ethics on charges of illegal practices.
Addressing the rally, Hussein asserted that citizens should have allegiance to Mubarak because of his predilection for the under-privileged and those of limited income, and because he intends to introduce further change and reform in the near future.
El-Shazli said the support of Menoufiya's inhabitants for Mubarak is significant because the president's home-village, Kafr Al-Messeilha, is part of the Menoufiya province. According to El-Shazli, Mubarak's greatest achievement was his ability to restore political and socio-economic stability to Egypt. "It is a stability that we should not tamper with, and for which we should support Mubarak," El-Shazli said.
He also praised Mubarak's courage in dealing with the attempt on his life. "Because of his bravery and bold leadership, the inhabitants of Menoufiya and of Al-Bagour in particular, are eager to say 'yes' to Mubarak in the referendum," El-Shazli said.
Speaking on Mubarak's achievements in quantitative terms, Zafer El-Bishri, minister of state for planning, indicated that the total volume of investments during Mubarak's 18 years in office amounted to LE587 billion and is expected to go up to LE600 billion in the next two years. El-Bishri also said Egypt's cultivated land has increased by two million feddans under Mubarak. "In 1952, the cultivated area in Egypt was 4.2 million feddans and in 1980 it reached 5.2 million feddans. In Mubarak's era, it climbed to 7.2 million feddans," El-Bishri said. According to him, almost LE17 billion were earmarked to upgrade infrastructure and services in the Menoufiya governorate.
The NDP rally in Cairo's northern district of Al-Amereiya was equally impressive. It was attended by four cabinet ministers, Shura Council speaker Mustafa Kamal Helmi, chief of the presidential staff Zakaria Azmi, Cairo governor Abdel-Reheim Shehata and a number of prominent businessmen and MPs.
According to Helmi, Mubarak is a leader who truly believes in democracy. "During his era, the door was opened for establishing 14 political parties while the press was given greater freedom to criticise society's shortcomings. Besides, the principle of social equality was further consolidated," Helmi said.
For Information Minister Safwat El-Sherif, Mubarak's greatest achievement is his landmark decision to implement a wide-scale economic reform programme. "This programme was not at the expense of the rights of farmers and workers," El-Sherif said.
Agreeing with El-Sherif, Azmi said that Mubarak's rational foreign policy and unprecedented economic reform programme proved he is a far-sighted statesman.
In a report submitted to President Mubarak last week, the NDP listed the number of achievements it made during the past 10 years. "The NDP managed to create more than 90,000 job opportunities for young people, provide free health care for more than 15,000 citizens and provide more than 5,000 persons with housing units," the report said. Besides, the NDP helped more than 9,000 farmers reschedule their debts to the Agricultural Credit Bank and awarded land ownership contracts to 10,000, the report added.
According to Wali, the NDP, which has 2.5 million members, has always focused on socio-economic development to keep abreast of fast international and regional changes. "This is why the NDP adopted the shift towards a market economy. But it emphasised, at the same time, that poor and limited-income brackets should receive protection from the vagaries of this system," Wali said in the NDP report.