CAIRO: Egyptians have until March 9 to register tand receive a voting card, which allows the holder to vote in any future presidential elections or national referendums.
The lack of publicity of the registration process has come under pressure from opposition groups.
Many, including the Kefaya movement, believe that this is due to the National Democratic Party’s efforts to sneak Gamal Mubarak, the president’s son, into office.
Opposition groups are trying their best to get the word out to people to go and register for upcoming elections, but it is proving difficult. The National Democratic Party (NDP), meanwhile, has been sitting quietly.
“We view the current secrecy of the registration process as proof that the NDP is attempting to establish Gamal as the new leader of the party, at his discretion or not is irrelevant, an activist with the opposition party Kefaya says. “It is obvious that the postponement of the local elections means that they [NDP] are gearing up to call a presidential election sooner rather than later.
Although Gamal Mubarak has strongly quelled any possibility of taking office, opposition parties are not convinced. “It seems Gamal is marrying in order to put himself in a position where he will be electable, or simply suitable to take over for his father, the Kefaya member says. “With Mubarak looking increasingly ill over the past few months, it might mean he is preparing to step down and let his son take over.
But what does this have to do with voting cards? According to the Kefaya activist, the amendment to Article 76 of the constitution, which allowed for multi-candidate presidential elections, came with certain restrictions. “These include, but are not restricted to party restrictions on fielding a candidate; and collecting votes in parliament in order to have a candidate allowed to run, he says.
Kefaya is not pleased that registration process has been this quiet, which they believe can be attributed to the NDP not wanting a large number of people being able to vote in a called election. “We believe that there are plans to hold an election within the next two years, the activist argues. “If that is the case, then the smaller the number of eligible voters will be beneficial to the ruling party, and not smaller organizations and political parties.
Even if this is the case, political parties not holding five percent of the seats in parliament can still petition to have their candidate on the ballot. This brings two difficulties into play, according to the Kefaya activist.
“First, the only non-NDP party with more than five percent of the seats is the Muslim Brotherhood and they are officially banned, thus they are unable to field a candidate unless he is an independent, he says. “Second, if elections are held within the next two years, no candidate will be prepared to run.
The reason is because political parties are trying to build up number of voters before they attempt to field a candidate. This process may take a couple of years before establishing strong constituencies able to contend on a realistic manner with the ruling party.
Also intriguing to the postponement of local elections and the lack of support for signing up for voting cards is the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood was poised to win a large number of seats in the canceled elections.
“Since the local legislative bodies are crucial to gaining access to parliament and eventually the presidential elections, it is not surprising that they were canceled by the government, he says.
According to Kefaya, the Brotherhood stood a good chance of winning the local council elections. Since there are a large number of these councils, it probably wouldn’t have been difficult for the Brotherhood to rustle the number of seats needed to field a candidate.
While Gamal Mubarak’s decision to get married at this moment may way heavily on the minds of opposition parties, Gamal has continued to tell the press that he has no intentions of running for president. But as the strategic leader for the NDP, it may not be enough for him to say no. It would be almost a guaranteed victory if he were to run in a called election.
“We feel that if the President were to call an election in the next two years and have his son run in his place, there would be nobody qualified or able to compete, the activist confirms.
If that were the case, then it would be in the interest of the NDP to call an election and establish Gamal Mubarak as the new leader of their party. It makes sense strategically for the party.
“Opposition groups must be ready for a call for elections within the next few years. If we are not prepared, that could spell certain doom for opposition parties in this country, he argues. “If parties are unwilling to show the people of Egypt that we are prepared and are maintaining the gains we achieved in the last year, we will lose our credibility and will be handing over the country to the NDP for the foreseeable future.