On Mubarak’s programme
With Egypt on the threshold of presidential elections, electioneering has reached fever pitch. The media is brimming with material on the different candidates, their political leanings, programmes and pledges. It is time to take in, scrutinise and carefully asses the various candidates’ plans and promises against our demands and aspirations, before heading to the polls on 7 September. We should form a conscientious, weighted opinion without being misled by the mob spirit; that is, if we are serious in our quest for real democracy.
Away from some of the
empty slogans used by President Hosni Mubarak’s supporters to applaud
him, one can safely say that
Mubarak’s programme does appear
to be by far the most well-researched and carefully-detailed of all the candidates’ programmes. It presents aspirations and targets which tackle
a wide angle of political, economic, and social vistas. As with all election programmes, it promises
a bright, flourishing and thriving future for
A look at President Mubarak’s programme reveals that it focuses primarily on the following:
• Free citizens within a democratic regime: The programme sponsored the move towards democracy and reform. It called for independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression, Constitutional reform to achieve balance between the different authorities in the State, fortifying party politics, empowering women, and invigorating local government, in addition to expanding Parliament’s authority in approving the State budget. Placed on hold however were the issues of reducing the security apparatus’ sway, freedom of establishing political parties, empowerment of Copts and youth, and decentralising power by moving some of the president’s authorities to the governors and affording more independence to the governorates regarding decisions on the economic front.
Conspicuously absent from the programme were thorny issues of Constitutional reform such as fixed, limited presidential terms, annulment of the 50 per cent quota granted to workers and peasants in Parliament and legislative councils, and establishment of alternative quotas for women and youth. As for the sensitive issue of affording Parliament more authority to approve the State budget, it is—contrary to what I had assumed—an official admission that this authority is now limited. In this context, I demand that the budgetary allowances for the presidency, defence ministry, interior ministry, and intelligence apparatus be publicised precisely and transparently, since these items have always been kept in the dark.
• On the economy: President Mubarak’s programme was very generous in its promises on job opportunities. During the coming six years—understandably the presidential term—the programme promised 600,000 opportunities in individual projects, at some three billion pounds investment. In small and medium scale projects, the programme promised 900,000 job opportunities at investments of LE60 billion over six years. Likewise, 1.5 million job opportunities at six year investments of LE100 billion were promised in the industrial sector; 420,000 job opportunities in the agricultural sector through the reclamation of 2.6 million feddans of land; and 1.2 million opportunities in the tourist sector at LE48 million. The total investment required for these 4,620,000 opportunities amounts to an ambitious LE161 billion in six years. Only a seasoned economist can figure out how this can be achieved.
• On the social and services fronts: President Mubarak’s programme offered an impressive plan to revive the education, health, housing, transportation, water and sanitary drainage sectors, promising disciplined, professionally ethical performance. It is a promise of the longed-for ‘good old times’ which were lost following decades of post-1952-Revolutionary thought, destruction of personal motivation, near-elimination of the middle class, decline of work as a value, and the discounting of citizenship rights. The good old times however can only be regained through battling corruption, reviving the values of equality and citizenship rights for all Egyptians, and upholding competence and top performance as the sole qualification for jobs, posts, and leadership. Mubarak’s programme tackled none of that.
• On foreign policy: Mubarak’s programme stuck
to the traditional no-risk, no-debate issues, guaranteed to garner support on the Egyptian street.
The Palestinian issue was stressed, but without taking into account the
various parties concerned, especially
If President Mubarak is elected to another term, he should be held accountable for any disregard of his explicit election programme. In the same context, his attention should be drawn to the issues which went un-mentioned in his programme or were placed on hold. These are precisely the issues that constitute our demands from the forthcoming president. Analysis of the other candidates’ programmes should place one in a position to make a responsible choice of our next president. Even if any of us is in any way dissatisfied with the elections, withdrawal is not an option, since it is only through perseverance and political participation that we can attain a better future.