The National Democratic Party's (NDP) preparations for this year’s election began in 2005. We introduced many changes and initiatives which raised the quality of our members and enforced party discipline for working members, parliament members and members of local councils. This began with internal elections for party committees on all levels in 2007, and we repeated the cycle in 2009. The number of seats being contested averaged 140,000 seats across the country.
We also trained our cadres through the NDP Forum for Party Organisers in managerial skills, public issues and the government’s policies on them. This political training, I believe, was unique in terms of content and the number of participating party leaders – more than 5,000 trainees at one time.
This was followed by direct preparations for the 2010 elections by choosing three methods to select candidates: electoral groups, party elections and public opinion surveys.
Combining the three meant that we sought the opinion of two million Egyptians over five months before we decided who to nominate to run for seats.
We drew up a party plan of action with specific tasks for organisational members to form communication groups with the electorate, which expand into larger circles to guarantee coverage of nearly five million voters across the country.
We also formed and trained welcome committees to direct voters in front of each ballot station, and come election day, we established a system which included a central operations room at the party’s general secretariat manned by 260 communication officials, and another one at party offices in all governorates.
The result was that we were in constantly in contact with more than 10,000 balloting stations. We averaged 8,218 calls at one time, and this system enabled us to monitor and follow up in a way which was unique and unavailable to any other political party in Egypt.
All these core developments created a more efficient party, more capable of motivating voters and more able to maintain a majority in the 2010 elections.
And what happened in other camps? The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was weaker in 2010 than it was in 2005. It is true that five years ago the MB won the most parliamentary seats they ever had in history, but there are two major reasons why they won all these votes – a number that even the group’s leadership knows is inflated beyond its actual voter base.
First, they used religions slogans in an unprecedented volume which were supported by a large number of MB candidates in voting districts.
Egyptian society is religious by nature and its extreme respect and appreciation of religion persuaded it to respect and value anyone who talks in the name of religion. The result was near awe with MB candidates in 2005 and their strongly worded, expressive and influential religious slogans.
But these were catchphrases which misled citizens to believe that this was a new type of politician whom perhaps they had never been seen before. This sense was greatly reflected in the ballots in these districts by the major voting bloc of the group.
Second, MB candidates played well the electoral system in Egypt.
For the average person and in the media it is called individual candidacy, but in fact the electoral system in Egypt is not entirely individual.
Unlike traditional individual candidacy, the Egyptian system allows more than one candidate to win. A ballot is void if the voter does not choose two candidates, so naturally candidates couple up with others in their district and each candidate receives the vote that is given to their partner on the ballot card.
These alliances usually combine a candidate from the category of professionals and one from the rural/worker group, which allows each nominee to earn votes in the popular districts of the other – which otherwise they would not have won without the alliance.
In reality, it is difficult for a candidate in one category to win a seat without a partner in the other category. In rural areas, this is referred to as “who will carry who”. Perhaps this reality will cause society to amend the electoral system and make it into an entirely individual system.
MB candidates used this structural system to their benefit in 2005, and formed alliances in all electoral districts which gave them the votes cast in support of other candidates in the same district.
This happened at a time when the NDP fragmented its voter base by supporting one candidate over another, causing hopefuls who felt rejected to nominate themselves as independents and partnered with the MB to spite the NDP. This provided fertile ground for MB candidates to tactically inflate votes through alliances.
Come 2010, it was a completely different story to ensure that these two factors are not at play in the elections, or at least not as influential as they were in 2005.
The view of the Egyptian voter of MB members of parliament and Brotherhood candidates has changed.
In many districts, the electorate sees MB representatives as politicians participating in an electoral process, like any other members of parliament or candidates.
The image of the MB candidate as a man of religion has significantly faded because of actions by the MB more than anything we said or did.
These include the group’s militia parade at Al-Azhar University, and statements by the group’s former leader in which he said, and I quote, “To hell with Egypt” and that he does not mind a Malaysian or Nigerian ruling Egypt as long as he is Muslim.
To this, I add the weak performance of MB parliamentarians, which consisted of endless and illogical opposition, procrastination not real opposition where objections were fused with pretension.
Criticism was more personal than objective and peppered with rejection; objection demonstrated an openness but the rejection betrayed political and ideological denunciation. Accordingly, the MBs in parliament were not an “opposition bloc” which could work towards the same goal with a different vision, but a “stumbling block” which obstructed the path to any goal.
Scenes included a raised shoe and zealous objection when MP Mohamed Abul Magd Nassar suggested a reference to the Egyptian soldier Ahmed Shaaban, who was martyred on the border between Egypt and Gaza, in a statement by the People’s Assembly. This martyr’s blood was shed by those whom we thought were our friends, but it was of no value to Brotherhood MPs who hold Hamas in higher regard.
The overall attitude of MB representatives over the past five years was to reject every single draft legislation and every article – and every paragraph in every article – of draft law, for no logical reason.
The NDP and its government propsed laws to boost the economy, but none of them approves; we drafted laws to increase salaries and raise energy prices for heavy industry, but none of them approved; we banned female circumcision and permitted organ transplants to save the sick, but they did not approve either.
Our MPs debated, amended and passed legislation allowing the private sector to participate in infrastructure projects so our country can reduce budget spending, but none of them agreed.
We passed a law on property taxes which is based on social justice since the more expensive homes pay a higher tax, but they disapproved saying that private residences should be exempt. This, despite the fact that 95 per cent of private homes are already exempt and the remainder are ones owned by wealthy citizens.
It’s as if MB members of parliament now primarily represent this wealthy strata.
Ahmed Ezz is the Organizational Secretary of the National Democratic Party, and the man behind the ruling party's sweeping win of the 2010 parliamentary elections.