Egypt's Road to Restoring DemocracyBy Frederick S.

Egypt's Road to Restoring Democracy

By Frederick S.
Published on Fri, Sep 30 2011 by Frederick S.

In June 2010 the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of ex-Egypt president Hosni Mubarak swept the polls to elect members of the Upper House of parliament. Further elections were  held in November of that year to elect members of the lower House of Parliament, and those polls produced results similar to June's. Presidential elections were slated for September 2011 and given President Mubarak’s age (82 years) and poor health at that time, his son Gamal was the heir-apparent, since Egypt’s opposition parties had largely been neutered by NDP’s dominance. The most prominent opposition group was the Muslim Brotherhood, which was officially banned as a political party but  contested the two 2010 elections through independent candidates and won a significant number of seats.

But all these projections did not take into consideration the Arab Spring, that riotous swelling that toppled North African strongmen including Mr. Mubarak, Colonel Qaddafi of Libya, Mr. Ben Ali of Tunisia, and is still festering in Syria.

With Mubarak's exit, power was handed to the an interim military council, whose main function is to stabilise the country and arrange presidential elections as soon as practicable. Skeptics were worried that the military might cling onto power longer than it should, as the council is made up of some individuals who are allies of Mr. Mubarak. Images of Mr. Mubarak lying on a stretcher and enclosed in a cage as he answered questions at his trial for ordering the murders of unarmed civilians during the protests that led to his ousting gave some reassurances that the military were paving way for fresh elections.

The military council has recently announced that parliamentary elections are to take place on November 28, 2011, rather than the original September date. Presidential elections are scheduled for March or April 2012. Mr. Mubarak's party, the NDP, was dissolved after his forced resignation from office, and the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood has since been lifted, so it is likely that the Brotherhood--as it likes to be referred to--might play a strong role in Egypt's governance in the near future. Besides the Brotherhood, other parties are still trying to assert themselves on the new political stage, a daunting process, considering Mr. Mubarak's intense stifling of political activity over the decades. Furthermore, there has been a proliferation of smaller liberal parties, with some viewing the November date for parliamentary elections to be disadvantageous to their chances as they do not yet have their election machinery in place. This situation may place the established political forces, including the Brotherhood and remnants of Mr. Mubarak's NDP in pole position to grab parliamentary seats.

Whichever way Egypt's political pendulum swings, its next group of leaders have their work cut out for them. Since the uprising, there has been a massive withdrawal of foreign investment by European and other non-Egyptian players. (By virtue of its geographical position, Egypt benefited from investment from European and Middle-Eastern players.) To win back this inflow, investors must be assured that conditions are stable and primed for big business. Tourism and remittances, two major earners of foreign exchanges for Egypt are also down in 2011, due both to slowdown in Western economies and perceived lack of stability in Egypt. Activities on the Suez Canal--the waterway that connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and onwards to the Indian Ocean--are also tepid due to the same aforementioned reasons. Thus to bring Egypt back to track, its future leaders need to show that the country is ready to receive foreign investment as well as pray that economic conditions in Europe improve soon.


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