The seventh annual conference of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) convenes today under the title “So you can feel secure about the future of your children.” President Hosni Mubarak, in his capacity as NDP chairman, will deliver a keynote speech before the conference that will be attended by as many as 2700 party members from all over Egypt.
As indicated by senior NDP leaders, the three-day conference will focus on economic issues while talk of political reform and next year's presidential elections will take a back seat. Gamal Mubarak, the 47-year-old son of President Hosni Mubarak and chairman of the NDP's powerful Policies Committee, is expected to be the star of the event, as has been the case in previous years.
On the second day, Gamal Mubarak will address the conference on the NDP's parliamentary programme. This programme, budgeted at LE3.4 billion, is aimed, according to Gamal Mubarak, at securing a quantitative and qualitative shift in economic development in Egypt. In the words of Gamal Mubarak, “this programme, which was heavily debated by NDP experts, aims to improve the daily living conditions of ordinary Egyptians over the coming five years, and will act as a new drive towards the future, bringing annual economic growth to seven per cent.”
Gamal Mubarak is also expected to review the NDP's achievements in 2010, taking the NDP's sweeping victory in the recent parliamentary elections as the party's most remarkable achievement. This, in spite of the nagging protests of opposition parties who insist that the election lacked integrity and was rife with fraud and irregularities.
Ahmed Ezz, the NDP's secretary for organisational affairs, is expected to be the conference's second star. Ezz, a steel magnate and business tycoon who is widely seen as Gamal Mubarak's right-hand man, will also deliver a speech on the second day, explaining “how the NDP has changed in recent years and how it was able to bring about the Muslim Brotherhood's downfall in the parliamentary elections and make it suffer a crushing defeat”.
Opposition parties and Muslim Brotherhood alike take Ahmed Ezz to task for orchestrating the parliamentary elections in the NDP's favour, with the support of the police and local provincial governors.
For his part, NDP Secretary General Safwat El-Sherif, indicated that, in their seventh annual conference, NDP leaders and members will be celebrating the party's overwhelming triumph in the Shura Council elections of June and the sweeping People's Assembly elections win one month ago. El-Sherif indicated that President Mubarak's speech before the joint session of parliament on 19 December set the priorities of the conference.
“The conference will focus on socio-economic issues, primarily on fighting poverty, and improving public services and health insurance,” said El-Sherif, adding that “it will also conduct a dialogue on draft laws aimed at improving the provision of health insurance, clamping down on the theft of state land, and fighting administrative corruption.”
Minister of State and NDP Assistant Secretary General for Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab will review in detail the NDP's agenda of draft laws.
“Most of these are about economic issues,” Shehab told Ahram Online, “while we will also discuss a draft law aimed at securing decentralisation in local administration.” Shehab explained that he would answer questions on other planned legislation, such as the long-awaited anti-terror law and another aimed at regulating elections in professional syndicates. In his words: “The anti-terror law should receive greater discussion, until it is promulgated in order to replace the 29-year-old state of emergency.”
According to El-Sherif, “The conference will not witness any major change in the party's leading positions, because this is the job of the NDP Congress which is held every four years.” An NDP statement also indicated that the conference would not tackle the issue of next year's presidential elections. NDP Secretary for Media Affairs Alieddin Hilal indicated that the issue of the party's presidential candidate in 2011 would be discussed at the NDP Conference next year. “It is too early to discuss this issue now,” said Hilal.
Gamal Mubrak will hold a press conference on the conference's second day, in which he will face questions about his presidential ambitions and other critical issues. President Hosni Mubarak and his son Gamal have repeatedly denied that they are preparing Egypt for a hereditary rule scenario. But the fact that President Mubarak, in power since 1981, has refrained from appointing a vice president has spawned strong rumours that he is anointing his younger son Gamal to be the next president.
Gamal Mubarak has routinely seized NDP annual conferences as an opportunity to polish his image and offer himself to the Egyptians and the outside world as a man of state capable of governing a country like Egypt. In recent years, Gamal Mubarak has also put himself over as a man who cares about poor and limited-income Egyptians, trying to refute opposition allegations that he belongs to an elite of wealthy businessmen and only cares about serving their interests.