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NDP parliament is here to stay

Despite wide calls to dissolve the elected parliament, presidential sources say any such action is unlikely

Dina Ezzat , Monday 6 Dec 2010
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President Hosni Mubarak is "not at all" considering taking any steps to dissolve the newly elected parliament and call for new elections as some rights groups have been demanding, a presidential source said.

The source, who spoke to Ahram Online on Monday on condition of anonymity, said that Mubarak will not take any such steps unless he finds it legally "unavoidable".

As members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) were celebrating an unprecedented control over parliament today - having swept to an 86 per cent win, based on preliminary results - rights groups were contesting the transparency of elections and making appeals to Mubarak to resolve the incoming parliamentary body.

Despite these calls and allegations of wide-spread vote-rigging, Mubarak is still planning to receive top parliamentary figures early next week and give the traditional go ahead to a new five-year parliamentary term by week's end.

"Plans are unchanged," said another presidential source.

While the final official account of the re-runs should be announced on Tuesday, no more than two dozen opposition figures are expected to have their names on the list of over 500 MPs residing in the 2005-2010 parliament. It is not clear how many of those will actually assume their seats in view of the decision by both the liberal Al-Wafd party and the Muslim Brotherhood to withdraw from the second round of elections, following major complaints of intervention against their candidates in the first round held on 28 November.

Sources in Al-Wafd offered alternative accounts, suggesting that a few of the estimated six-elected-party members would join parliament and risk losing party membership. 

"They are coming under pressure from the ruling party and it looks like it is working," said one source. Other sources from Al-Wafd insist that, ultimately, elected members will abide by the political decision of the party to turn its back to a parliament that is all but an exclusive NDP club.

Wahid Abdel-Meguid, a political scientist affiliated with Al-Wafd, asserts that the parliament Mubarak will address in a few days is "hardly different" from the outgoing parliament, in which opposition controlled over one-fifth of its seats, considering the continued NDP control of the majority seats both in the outgoing and incoming parliament.

"There is a change in numbers; true, there are few chairs going to the opposition in view of the [almost] full exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood," said Abdel-Meguid. However, he added, when it comes to assessing the "quality of performance of parliament then one should not expect a big difference".

The NDP, noted Abdel-Meguid, had a two-third majority in the out-going parliament and "by virtue of this majority which is still less flagrant than the current situation, the NDP passed only those bills it wanted to pass and it blocked all that it did not want to pass."

For Abdel-Meguid, the political reality Egypt woke up to on Monday is hardly different from the one it slept to on 27 November –the eve of the first round of elections. Namely, a dominating NDP which will only grow in dominance, a weak and unassembled secular opposition which now faces internal schisms and a popular Muslim Brotherhood that "has been systematically subjected to government" constraining measures.
 
In Hamdi Hassan's view, a Muslim Brotherhood member and 2005 MP, the account goes slightly further. He adds another piece to the picture painted by Abdel-Meguid.  Hassan paints an Egyptian population that is caught either by total apathy "in view of the control exercised by the NDP over parliament after the [aggressive intervention] in elections" or by total frustration and anger.
 
Hassan stresses that for the most part, Egyptians "would turn their back on this parliament". This, he adds, is not a small thing "as the NDP might like to think," but rather: "This is the indication of a serious political crisis on the eve of presidential elections."
 
According to Hassan the many question marks raised over the new parliament would be passed almost automatically to the next president.
 
The next presidential elections are scheduled to be held next autumn. In the possible absence of Al-Wafd Party from the new Parliament, the party would lack the constitutional right to nominate a presidential candidate.
 
And in view of the many constraints imposed on the candidacy of independents, it seems that the NDP candidate would be running almost unopposed.
 
The NDP has thus far declined to make a firm announcement on its possible candidate for the next elections. The latest statements coming from NDP figures have suggested that President Mubarak, who will be 83 by the time, is still planning to run.

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