Although the upcoming parliamentary (2010) and presidential (2011) elections aren’t likely to change much, they will introduce a few interesting dynamics. First off is the question of whether President Mubarak will run again. We’ve heard lately from a couple people that he will stand in the presidential elections, further putting off the issue of succession. An article in al-Ahram today quotes Safwat al-Sherif as saying that Mubarak will describe the steps Egypt has taken since the last NDP conference and lay out his vision of the future during his keynote address at the big NDP confab slated for the end of this month. We obviously have no idea if it means that the president plans to announce his intentions.
The parliamentary elections will be more interesting. As far as we can tell, the NDP old guard, or some faction of it, “won” the spin war following the 2006 elections, in cementing the narrative that the new guard was allowed the chance to run the NDP’s elections operation in the first round, which resulted in mammoth gains for the Muslim Brotherhood. Owing to that undesirable outcome, older and wiser hands were allowed to step in during the later rounds to contain the damage.
Moving forward, we wonder if the old guard will be confident that the new guard will mess things up again, reinforcing the “they aren’t ready to lead” narrative, or whether they will fear that the new guard has learned its lessons and not allow the situation to “devolve” into actual electoral competition, as it did last time. In short, the old guard faces a choice: Let the new guard take control and hope they fail, or try not to give them a chance to succeed alone, by becoming actively involved from the start.
As for the opposition, they have begun to lay their cards on the table with the announcement of an agreement to call for international monitors, and the various responses said agreement has received. As far as we can tell there is no triggering mechanism included in the pact, though one could see it as laying the groundwork for an eventual boycott. What a boycott would accomplish is far from clear, however, as attempting to further delegitimize what will in all likelihood be viewed as illegitimate elections is a fools errand. To deploy a tired metaphor, legitimate elections are like pornography. We know ‘em when we see ‘em, and the Brotherhood or some other party boycotting will not be the deciding factor in our or anyone else’s determination.
That said, not boycotting if and when the NDP refuses to countenance electoral monitors (on exactly the same grounds the anti-monitor opposition parties use in the article below) will expose the whole enterprise as essentially meaningless, except maybe in burnishing the Brotherhood’s credentials as “committed to democracy.” At this point, however, the only people who doubt those credentials are ideological opponents and not open to convincing anyway.
As for the American angle, it will be interesting to see how the Obama administration handles this one, if it comes to a head. One has to assume that the Carter Center will be itching to get involved in the electoral monitoring. Because Carter, in his old age, refuses to perform the moral, ethical and verbal contortions American politicians find so necessary in discussing anything to do with Palestine and Israel, amongst other issues, he is apparently persona non grata in the administration and to an even greater extent in Congress. So what if he tries to come monitor the elections against the wishes of the administration, which has already staked too much on the peace process to allow for the alienation of an ally that, although diminished in its capabilities, is still seen as crucial?
Anyhow, these are just some sketchy ideas about what might happen. If we get a press card we look forward to covering future developments in more depth.
The article we’ve translated confused us a bit, because the headline, both online and in print, states “و انتظار في كفاية و الناصري,” but as far as we can tell no one is waiting for anything, they’ve made their choices not to support election monitors. So maybe we are mistranslating that part or there is a meaning to “انتظار في” that we don’t know, but we went with “Refuse” since it seems more in line with what the article says.
From the Monday, October 12 edition of al-Shorouk:
The Muslim Brotherhood and Gad party have decided to support a pact, which a number of public intellectuals have signed, demanding international supervision of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. The Nasserist party and the unlicensed Wasat Party have refused to join.
As for the Brotherhood’s support for the pact, and the question of whether there is a rift between the Brotherhood’s parliamentary members, some of whom have signed the pact, and the organization’s official stance, Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef said: “Come on, man. That’s an incomprehensible question. The whole [MB parliamentary] delegation signed the pact and you ask me what is the group’s position?” He went on to say, “This is a humanitarian and national issue and not just parliamentary.”
The Gad party’s higher council agreed to support the measure and permitted party founder Ayman Nour to sign the document.
On the other hand, Sameh Ashur, Vice Chairman of the Nasserist party, said that his party refused the idea of international supervision of the elections, “Because we don’t trust the credibility of the international community.” He confirmed that the party did not know anything about the pact, nor did they know anything about its contents. Instead, he suggested choosing a number of public personalities well-known for their independence and neutrality to monitor the elections.
Abu al-‘Ila Madi, founding member of the [moderate Islamist] Wasat Party [which has been repeatedly denied a license to operate], also refused to join the pact, stating, “International supervision of elections is but one means of interfering in Egypt’s affairs which we refuse completely.”
Hussein Abd al-Raziq, vice chairman of the [leftist] Tagammua party, said that his party had not joined the agreement, but that his party had, after repeated past instances of electoral fraud, demanded international monitors, on the condition that they come under the aegis of the United Nations.
Fouad Badrawi, vice chairman of the Wafd party, denied that his party had signed the agreement, clarifying that in his personal opinion he refused the idea of international monitors because it represents interference in Egypt’s affairs.
George Ishaq and Dr. Abd al-Galil Mustafa, the leaders of the Kefaya movement, pointed out that the movement had not made a final decision on international monitors. They confirmed that the movement was divided into two factions, with both factions expressing their personal opinions on the matter.