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2 - 8 November 2000
Issue No. 506
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Ruling party 'out of touch'

By Gamal Essam El-Din

Political analysts and commentators called this week for a re-structuring of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) following its unexpectedly poor performance in the first and second stages of parliamentary elections. Senior NDP officials, described as the "old guard" and "cardboard leaders who did everything possible and impossible to cling to their seats for tens of years at the expense of promoting the party with the people," came in for a barrage of criticism.

Among the 160 NDP candidates contesting the third stage on 8 November, many are worried that they might face the humiliating defeat suffered by their colleagues in the first two stages. Candidates in the third stage, which will include Cairo and Giza and six other governorates, include five NDP chairmen of parliamentary committees, three cabinet ministers, one former minister and the Assembly's deputy speaker. They face 125 Wafdists, 50 leftists and 40 Muslim Brotherhood candidates, the latter running as independents.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, chief of the NDP majority in the outgoing parliament, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the160 NDP candidates are "aware that the full judicial supervision over the polling stations is a hard test for their popularity with the masses. Moreover, the fact that most of them are running against business tycoons desperately seeking to secure a seat in parliament also adds to the difficulty of their battle. Losing means that they will be consigned to the political wildernesss," said Abu Zeid.

Kamal El-Shazli, minister of state for parliamentary affairs and the NDP's secretary-general for organisational affairs, said the party is seriously thinking of sacking some of its leading members who emerged as losers from the first two stages. These include four provincial secretary-generals and four chairmen of parliamentary committees.

Some NDP candidates in the third stage are now using legal tactics to increase the chances of their success. Abdel-Ahad Gamaleddin, chairman of the Arab Affairs Committee of the outgoing parliament, filed a lawsuit with the Administrative Court seeking to disqualify his business tycoon rival Rami Lakah, running in Cairo's Al-Azbakiya district, on the grounds that he has dual nationality. In the lawsuit, Gamaleddin argued that his rival is an Egyptian-French citizen. "It is true that Egyptian law allows, under certain conditions, that citizens have another nationality, in addition to the Egyptian nationality. But this type of citizen should not be allowed to become a member of parliament because their dual nationality will prevent them from being completely loyal to the interests of our country," said Gamaleddin.

His action led other NDP deputies to follow the same course. Ahmed Fouad Abdel-Aziz, chairman of the Education Committee of the outgoing parliament, filed a lawsuit against his Wafdist rival Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, claiming that the latter also holds dual Egyptian-French nationality. Economy Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali and Housing Minister Ibrahim Suleiman are targeted in similar lawsuits. Ghali, NDP candidate in the Cairo district of Shubra, is said to be Egyptian-American, and Suleiman, NDP candidate in Cairo's Gamaliya district, is said to be an Egyptian-Canadian. Prominent businessman Mohamed Abul-Enein, NDP candidate in Giza, is also said to be an Egyptian-Italian. The lawsuits against Ghali, Suleiman and Abul-Enein were brought by NDP members who were not officially nominated by the party and had to run as independents.

The Administrative Court is expected to hand down its decisions on the lawsuits on Sunday.

These lawsuits followed a ruling last week by the Supreme Administrative Court in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura that citizens with dual nationality should be banned from entering parliament.

A Cairo Administrative Court ordered on Tuesday that Sayed Mashaal, minister of state for military production and NDP candidate in Helwan, south of Cairo, be banned from contesting elections because his name was not correctly registered on the voters' lists. Mashaal filed an appeal.

One of the strongest reactions to the NDP failures came from Gamal Mubarak, a member of the party's general secretariat. Addressing an NDP rally in the Nile Delta town of Zagazig, Mubarak said: "Time and effort should be devoted now to supporting NDP candidates in the third stage. Following the elections, the time will be ripe for introducing a radical change to NDP ranks. The true weight and popularity of the NDP with the masses will be clearly assessed. We'll be able to identify where the weaknesses are and we will prepare a long-term plan to address them. The results of the elections to date indicate that the central leadership of the party had nearly lost contact with its offices in villages and towns," Gamal Mubarak said.

He also indicated that irrespective of the results of elections, it was decided some time ago that the NDP should undergo wide-scale reform. "We believe that this reform will be in the interest of democracy. But reform will not be introduced overnight. It will be a long and ongoing process; hearing sessions will be held to listen to all kinds of opinions about the proposed reform," he said.


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