The conference of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) in Egypt concluded yesterday without results. But this annual event is dedicated in the first place to deliberations among party leaders and members, and indeed, there were discussions on many issues such as the party’s performance in the outgoing year and its plans for the coming year.
In the end, ‘rosy’ talk prevailed over self-criticism, unless criticism, evaluation and rectification of errors were done during private sessions. However, party leaders spoke publically of achievements that include some concerning the affairs of the citizens, especially in what regards combatting poverty and subsidizing commodities and projects which are meant to contribute to the betterment of people’s lives. Other achievements include the party’s performance in the recent parliamentary elections, where some party figures adopted a tone that some understood to be boastful of snatching an overwhelming majority of the seats in parliament, while blaming other parties for losing and failing to win an adequate number of seats; all this while failing to mention the violations and abuses that took place during the elections or extenuating and excusing them.
It was interesting, of course, to see the attack against the Muslim Brotherhood being repeated, while a plan to counter the group’s activity was unveiled –this time through legal action. True, the majority of opposition parties that participated in the first round of the parliamentary elections- some of them boycotted the second round – suffer from many internal disputes. It is also true that the left-wing al-Tagammu’ [Gathering] Party, which alone partook in the second round of the elections along with the National Party, witnessed some sharp quarrels among its leaders because of this participation. This is while a debate took place within the Muslim Brotherhood group, of which only one candidate won after he split from the group and rejected the decision boycotting and questioning the run-off vote. However, this does not mean that the conduct of the NDP in the elections was benign, and that the seats that were grabbed by its candidates were fully deserved by them. Nor does it mean that the flaws and mistakes which engulf all political parties and factions in Egypt do not apply to the ruling NDP, or that dialogue alone between the NDP and the rest of the political parties in Egypt is enough to overcome what had happened.
What might figure highly here is President Hosni Mubarak’s speech before the Parliamentary Commission of the NDP, on the violations, abuses and violence that took place during the elections and instances of vote-purchasing. President Mubarak said that what took place during the elections was no ordinary matter, and that it is imperative to demand that irregularities in the electoral process be addressed, and that a new framework should be reached to guarantee fair elections in the future. This is while ensuring that the candidates all have the opportunity to compete and that the voters’ ballots reach the candidates they have chosen. President Mubarak also said that it is necessary to guarantee the safety of the voters who come to the polling stations, but who are often subjected to violence and ‘bullying’ – now a staple feature of every election held in the country.
It is the right of the ruling NDP party in Egypt to boast of its overwhelming victory in the elections. But it is also the right of election observers who closely followed the elections and who are aware of the intricacies of the political scene in Egypt, to warn that repeating the elections in the future in the same manner, will not achieve democracy or even improve [Egypt’s] image. While the opposition parties are currently immersed in trying to rectify their mistakes or flaws, the ruling party must also do the same. Otherwise, mistakes will be repeated and even exacerbated in the future, as long as the NDP believes that it is free of mistakes, and that it is others who are responsible for the political scene, as seen through the looking glass of the elections.