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Former NDP figures prepare for strong showing in Egypt's parliamentary polls

New coalitions feature a number of former officials from the Hosni Mubarak regime

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 26 Oct 2014
NDP
File photo: Men sit under election banners of Abdel-Halim Allam (R), a candidate of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), in Alexandria some 220 km (136.7 miles) north of Cairo, November 27, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)
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With the Muslim Brotherhood banned and secular opposition parties‎ divided, key members of the former ‎regime of Hosni Mubarak are expecting to perform well in Egypt's coming parliamentary elections. ‎

Beginning on Monday, the Egyptian Front, an electoral ‎coalition led by a number of the former Mubarak-era officials and members of ‎Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP), will hold the first of a series of public rallies in ‎preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections.‎

According to Mostafa Bakri, editor of the independent weekly ‎Al-Osboa and the coalition's media spokesperson, the Egyptian ‎Front's first public rally will be held in Qena in Upper Egypt on Monday.

"It will ‎be followed by weekly public rallies in the cities of Cairo, ‎Alexandria, Tanta and Assuit and so on," said Bakri, adding that ‎‎"these are not part of the election campaigns, but rather public ‎conferences aimed at mobilising citizens to the polls and ‎alerting their attention to the dangers of the return of the Muslim ‎Brotherhood to parliament and political life."‎

Mahmoud Nafadi, a parliamentary reporter and the ‎spokesperson for coalition member Modern Egypt Party said that "the Qena public rally will be held under the ‎slogan ‘the people, the army and the police are one hand ‎against terrorism.’”

"Under this slogan, which was adopted after ‎the terrorist attack in Sinai on Friday, we will do our best to ‎raise the awareness of the dangers of bringing Muslim ‎Brotherhood or any its allies back to parliament."‎

The front's leaders indicate that even though registration for the ‎polls has not been officially opened yet and the date for the elections has not been set, the ‎coalition has decided to prepare early for the elections.

"It is ‎no secret that the list of the front's candidates in most of Egypt’s ‎‎27 governorates has already been finalised so that they can ‎lead a competitive campaign from the beginning," said Bakri.‎

The last two months witnessed Egypt's secular political parties ‎scrambling to form electoral alliances in a bid to win a majority ‎of seats in the upcoming parliament. ‎

According to Article 146 of the new constitution, the political ‎party or coalition that wins a majority of seats in parliament will ‎be asked by the president to form a new government. ‎

Emboldened by court rulings that ruled out imposing political ‎disenfranchisement on them, the remnants of the former ‎Mubarak regime and the defunct NDP rushed to form the ‎Egyptian Front electoral coalition.

It is mainly composed of the ‎National Movement, founded by Mubarak's last prime minister ‎and 2012 presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, the Misr Baladi ‎Party, founded by former interior minister Ahmed Gamaleddin, ‎and the Congress Party, founded by Mubarak's former ‎foreign minister Amr Moussa.‎

The coalition also includes the Modern Egypt Party, the Geel ‎‎Party, the Democratic Al-Ghad Party, ‎the leftist Tagammu party. Three major labour ‎organisations are also members: the General Egyptian Federation of Trade ‎Unions, the Federation of Professional Syndicates, and ‎the General Syndicate of Farmers.‎

Bakri disclosed that two leftist parties – the Arab Nasserist ‎Party and the Qawmi Party – have also joined the ‎coalition.‎

The front selected Amin Radi, deputy chairman of the Congress ‎Party, as its secretary-general. Radi is a former airforce ‎pilot who was close to Mubarak, and was also a leading NDP official who was ‎selected to head the 2005-2010 parliament's committee of ‎transport. ‎

The front has also appointed Ali El-Moselhi, a former minister of ‎social solidarity and a former member of NDP's secretariat-‎general, as its general coordinator.‎

El-Moselhi told Al-Ahram newspaper that he expects that the ‎front will gain a large number of seats in the coming parliament ‎‎"and we hope we will gain the majority."

"When Mubarak was ‎in power, opposition parties were always asserting that if he ‎left office, the NDP would evaporate in a second," said ‎El-Moselhi, "but the NDP never evaporated after ‎Mubarak had left office simply because its deputies still have ‎deep-rooted business, familial and tribal links everywhere in ‎Egypt."

"We counted for success in parliament during the ‎Mubarak years not so much on Mubarak's ruling party as on our deep links with the Egyptian people," asserted El-‎Moselhi, recalling that in 2005's polls most of the NDP ‎candidates won as independents but joined the party in ‎parliament to swell its ranks. ‎

El-Moselhi said the front will introduce itself to the Egyptian ‎people not as former NDP figures or ex-Mubarak officials ‎but rather as a national coalition that includes a mixture of liberal ‎and leftist forces.‎

El-Moselhi believes that a lot of former NDP ‎deputies will choose to run as independents. "The major ‎reason for this is that the new election law reserves two thirds ‎of seats for independents and one third only for party-based ‎candidates," he said.‎

Agreeing with El-Moselhi, Nabil Zaki, spokesman for the Tagammu ‎Party, also insists that the Egyptian Front is not ‎a political cover for the NDP remnants. "Tagammu joined this ‎coalition because we share the belief that the Muslim Brotherhood ‎and other political Islam forces are the biggest threat to Egypt ‎and that all should be united against helping them return to ‎parliamentary and political life again," said Zaki.‎

Secular opposition parties have long complained that the ‎individual candidacy system helps candidates with money, ‎power and tribal links sweep parliament. "This ‎applies very much to NDP remnants who made a lot of wealth ‎under the Mubarak regime and who know how to ‎buy votes with money," said Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, chairman ‎of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party.

Shukr has submitted a ‎memo to Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, urging him to ‎intervene to amend the election law so as to prevent former NDP ‎figures from winning seats in parliament. ‎

Another three coalitions associated with the Mubarak regime in one way or another have also been formed ‎in recent weeks. The first is led by Kamal El-Ganzouri, a former ‎Mubarak old guard prime minister. El-Ganzouri said he does ‎not want to be the speaker of the coming parliament but he ‎wants to form a broad-based electoral alliance among secular ‎forces to win seats reserved to party lists only (120 seats).

"All ‎should know that the failure of creating this national electoral ‎alliance could open the door for political Islam forces to ‎infiltrate parliament again," a source close to El-Ganzouri said ‎on 21 October.‎

El-Ganzouri made a lot of contacts with several secular forces, ‎on top of which the Egyptian Front, asking them to join his ‎electoral alliance – or the so-called El-Ganzouri alliance. ‎

Opposition parties see El-Ganzouri as mostly acting as a cover ‎for El-Sisi who, they say, wants a parliament ‎dominated by loyalists to his regime. A presidential spokesman ‎insisted last week that President El-Sisi has not asked anyone ‎to form an electoral alliance and that El-Ganzouri is acting on his ‎own.‎
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The second coalition – named the Independence Current – is ‎composed of a number of low-key political parties which were ‎created under the Mubarak regime. It is headed by Ahmed El-‎Fadali, chairman of the Democratic Peace Party and an ‎employee of the People's Assembly (now renamed the House of ‎Representatives).‎

A third coalition under the title Together Long Live Egypt has also ‎come into being. According to its general coordinator Medhat ‎El-Haddad, the coalition mainly includes retired ‎military personnel who want to see Egypt remain a civilian ‎state and not fall again into the hands of political Islam.

"If we were not able to field candidates, we will ‎mobilise the families of our members – estimated at 14 million ‎-- to vote against Islamists or any other anti-El-Sisi force," El-‎Hadad told Al-Ahram daily.‎

All of the above coalitions are united by one platform: a deep ‎abhorrence of Muslim Brotherhood and a firm support for ‎President El-Sisi.

Yehia Qadri, deputy chairman of the National Movement ‎Party, told Al-Ahram that it is important for the coming ‎parliament to work in collaboration and harmony with ‎ El-Sisi because Egypt's fragile political conditions ‎cannot stand any confrontation between the executive and ‎legislative branches of power.‎

There have been rumours that Ahmed Ezz, a billionaire steel ‎magnate who had acted as NDP's secretary for organisational ‎affairs and was the right-hand man of Mubarak's young son and ‎heir apparent Gamal, is now doing its best to gather former NDP men into a new political party. Ezz was released ‎from prison this year after paying a hefty fine of LE150 million pending trial ‎on charges of tax evasion, illegal profiteering and monopolistic ‎practices.‎

Nafadi, however, insists that Ezz has just met with his steel ‎company's employees to review work conditions while he was ‎in jail rather discuss any election matters. "The best Ezz can do ‎is to fund the election campaigns of some former NDP deputies ‎who were close to him and who might contest the polls as ‎independents," said Nafadi. ‎

Political analysts agree that the NDP-affiliated electoral ‎coalitions could perform well in the coming polls, but this is ‎not to the extent that the NDP diehards will return to ‎parliament in large numbers to sweep it. Al-Ahram political ‎analyst Gamal Abdel-Gawad agrees that ideological divisions ‎among secular opposition political forces offer a golden ‎opportunity for NDP diehards to return to parliament again.

‎‎"But I still have doubts that most of these diehards can win ‎because they lost popularity after Mubarak's downfall, not to ‎mention that citizens cannot tolerate Egypt having another ‎Mubarak-style parliament in the wake of two revolutions," ‎said Abdel-Gawad.‎

Shukr also agrees that "to say that NDP diehards will sweep ‎the coming parliament is overestimated." "I know they are ‎coming from all directions as they want to impose a siege on ‎the coming parliament, but in any way I think that they, helped ‎by the electoral system, could at best win a quarter of seats – a ‎distressing fact in itself, " said Shukr.‎

The results of the 2012 elections which were swept by the Muslim ‎Brotherhood’s political party show that four or five former NDP MPs only were ‎able to find their way into parliament as independents and ‎that most of NDP's high profile candidates like El-Moselhi ‎lost the election to Islamist candidates. Shukr urges ‎opposition parties to merge into one electoral coalition ‎capable of winning majority and defeating the symbols of both ‎the Mubarak and Muslim Brotherhood regimes.

"I hope we will ‎move in this direction and the sooner the better if we want a ‎democratic future for Egypt to flourish," said Shukr.‎

Egypt's parliamentary polls are expected to be held later this ‎year or early next year after a new electoral district law is ‎finalised.‎

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