Municipal council elections may give youth another chance at politics

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CAIRO: Municipal council elections will be held in July or August at the latest, following the presidential elections, the Cabinet of Ministers said in a statement.

A Supreme Administrative Court ruling dissolved last July municipal councils across the country, one of the demands of the January 25 Revolution that toppled Egypt’s strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Municipal councils are vital on several levels, said political analyst Abdel Aleem Mohamed, of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

“Municipal councils are responsible for decisions that affect citizens directly in their day-to-day lives,” he said.

Infamous for being riddled with corruption — with the admission of leading figures of the former regime — many had warned that municipal councils may be used to bolster support for members of the former regime in the parliamentary elections.

“For the past 30 years, Mubarak’s regime and the National Democratic Party have monopolized municipal councils, so having elections in a democratic atmosphere will be a chance to get rid of the corrupt remnants of the ousted regime at the grassroots level,” Mohamed explained.

It was Egypt’s youth who took to the streets demanding change, sparking the historic January uprising; however, they failed to make substantial gains in the parliamentary elections, with some boycotting the vote.

“Municipal council elections are an opportunity for the youth, but again they have to organize themselves through political parties and groups and effective campaigns,” said Mohamed.

A local initiative was launched to raise awareness about municipal councils, with a focus on youth participation. “Our main goal is to include youth in municipal councils, which are the ABCs of political participation,” explained Mostafa Shouman, founder of an initiative called Ma7liat (Arabic for municipal councils).

Ma7liat, which works both online and on the street, plans to train potential young candidates on the legislation and operation of municipal councils, in addition to raising awareness about their function.

Organizers are preparing specific plans to cater to the needs for each constituency. “Some places have water problems, others have sewage problems,” said Shouman.

A total of “6.8 million citizens have no access to drinking water, 51 percent of whom are in the Delta while 48 percent live in Upper Egypt. “Help us deliver the simplest rights to citizens: clean water that prevents disease,” the initiative wrote on its Twitter account on Thursday.

Other informative tweets explained how municipal councils can help in solving constituency-specific problems.

Shouman said that corruption in municipal council stems mainly from bureaucracy. “People just resort to bribery in order to get things done,” he said.

The campaign, which has been active for nearly a month now, is ready to modify its strategies to adapt to change, especially legal ones.

“We are working under the old municipal elections law, but this can change in a day, just like the People’s Assembly elections. We are preparing for any scenario,” Shouman said, explaining that, for example, there may be party lists and individual candidates.

Ma7liat is working with a number of similar initiatives to raise awareness about elections, such as Ehmy Sotak (Protect Your Vote), Sohag’s Revolution Youth, Assiut Revolution Youth, as well as political parties Al-Adl, Free Egyptians and the Reform and Development Parties.

The initiative said it would participate in elections with at least 5,000 youth from all political streams.

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