Post-independence politics in the Arab world in general has been characterized by varieties of authoritarian populist regimes and personalized rule. Often dominated by a strongman, authoritarian Arab regimes have opposed the introduction of fundamental democratic principles such as regular free elections with multiple political parties, accountability of the rulers to the ruled, freedom of speech and association, and respect for individual human rights. Slogans of populism such as social justice, anti-imperialism and Arab unity were the dominant themes of the political discourse, and mechanisms of inclusion such as extensive linkages and coalitions with various social groups-peasants, the middle class, entrepreneurs and intellectuals were put in place. The legitimacy of a regime depended on support from these groups, who in turn surrendered their claims to political participation in return for such economic benefits as employment, subsidized housing and education. The benefits of populism outweighed the authoritarian control. However, in the 1980s, due to economic reforms in accordance with structural adjustments, regimes had increasing difficulty maintaining their side of this "social contract." Their resources were running out, and people started to demand a revision of the terms to which they had consented in the past.
Moreover, most Arab states have faced increasing economic and financial difficulties during the last decade as a result of numerous problems ranging from inefficient and uncompetitive state-controlled economies to corruption and mismanagement in the use of economic resources. The demographic trends in the region-a rapid increase in the number of young people living in the new urban slums-have exacerbated social and economic problems while undermining the ability of governments to respond adequately. Changes in world politics since the end of superpower competition intensified the internal difficulties. Arab regimes could no longer count on the availability of external resources to meet their economic and financial needs.
One of the major outcomes of this new reality and the social change it brought about has been the formation of a new and growing middle class and a modem working class. It is the very middle class created by these regimes which demanded a share in the political process.
Consequently, in return for popular acceptance of painful economic measures that create a greater inflation and unemployment in the short term, regimes have offered their citizens a measure of political participation through elections with multiple parties. This revision of the social contract is best reflected in the case of Egypt, where the process of controlled political liberalization has been closely intertwined with economic reforms. The political reforms introduced in Egypt since 1976, with the creation of multiple parties, a relatively free press and the regular holding of elections have marked an important change in the political environment. There has been a discernible though gradual movement toward breaking away from. the rigid authoritarian past particularly since President Hosni Mubarak took over in 1981. Over the past decade however, efforts at state-led development have given way to paralysis and limited efforts at economic reform while popular living standards have fallen precipitously, with the result that the pace of the process of political liberalization has lost much of its earlier momentum. At the same time, the Egyptian state has partially retreated from the country's economic, political and ideological spheres.
According to several observers, this retreat has been fueled less by a shift in regime priorities than by an attenuation of its capacities for inclusion and control. In fact, it is this characteristic of exclusivism, most apparent in the ruling party, the National Democratic party (NDP), and with substantial support among the new business and middle classes, which, I would argue, gave rise to two oppositional forces: militant religious activists and pro-reform liberal elements. The result is that the most important developments have occurred outside the realm of political structures, with the emergence of "independent islands" of social and political expression. This is not the same as the emergence of civil society, at least not in its liberal conception, since it undermines political consensus.
PARLIAMENT AND POLLING MECHANISMS
It was Khedive Ismail who established the first Assembly that could be compared to a Western parliament. Instituted in 1866 as the Shura Council of Representatives, it had no legislative powers and acted merely as an advisory body. It was only after the promulgation of the 1923 constitution that a two-house parliament, with the power of legislating and withdrawing confidence from the government, came into existence. Consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate, the House initially had 213 seats, gradually increasing to 319; the Senate had 120 seats, which later rose to 180. The two houses had the power to legislate and exercise control over government actions, including approving or modifying the state budget. But the king nevertheless maintained the right to dissolve parliament.
Both were disbanded following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952. In 1957, a 344-member National Assembly was established. But the structure of parliament was drastically altered in 1963, after Egyptians approved a national charter stipulating that half of the Assembly's seats be reserved for workers and peasants. As a result, each constituency was to be represented by two deputies, one of them a peasant or worker and the other a professional. This system remains in effect today.
The individual candidacy system was used to elect members of parliament until 1984. In that year, the slate system was introduced, obliging candidates to run collectively on a party slate. The electorate thus voted for a party rather than an individual candidate.
Moreover, it was stipulated that a party must garner 8 percent of the national vote to gain a foothold in parliament. But three years later the system was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court on the grounds that it was discriminatory against candidates who wanted to run as independents. In 1987, a combination of the slate and individual systems was used, but this was also branded unconstitutional by the same court. As a result, the nation reverted to the individual candidacy system in the 1990 elections. The same system was used again on November 29, 1995.
Under the People's Assembly law, candidates running for election should be Egyptian nationals registered as voters, not less than 30 years old and literate. Male candidates should have either completed their military service or hold an exemption; they should not have lost their membership in a previous parliament as a result of a withdrawal of confidence or violation of membership duties.
The Assembly includes 444 seats that are filled by election, with an additional 10 which the president of the republic has the right to fill by appointment. Cabinet ministers have the right to run for election, but members of the armed services do not. An attempt to strip a member of his or her parliamentary immunity must be approved by a two thirds majority.
Although the People's Assembly does provide an arena in which the opposition can attempt to display its parliamentary skills, the government enjoys such an overwhelming preponderance of resources that the opposition has hardly any chance of making serious inroads at the government's expense. Moreover, significant control is exerted by the government over parliament, due to the fact that a significant number of MPs are employees in the public sector, whereas prior to 1952 public servants had to resign their posts if elected to parliament.
According to the 1971 constitution, the People's Assembly has political, legislative, financial and supervisory functions. Politically, the Assembly has the prerogative of nominating the president of the republic, although the nomination must then be approved by the people in a nationwide referendum. It also debates the policy statements made by the president and the prime minister at the beginning of each parliamentary session and has the power to declare a state of emergency.
In legislative terms, the Assembly has the authority to propose and pass new laws, and to debate, modify and approve or reject government-proposed laws. The financial functions include debating the state budget and approving or rejecting new taxes, as well as foreign loans and grants. In supervising government actions, members of the house have the right to direct questions and interpellation to cabinet ministers, discuss the reports of the Central Auditing Agency and set up fact-finding committees.
The Assembly includes 18 specialized subcommittees plus a general committee which includes the chairmen of the subcommittees. There is also an ethics committee.
MAIN OPPOSITION FORCES
The Wafd Party
The Wafd is Egypt's oldest political party. It occupied a front seat in Egyptian politics from 1919 to 1952 because it championed two interrelated causes: national liberation and democracy. It was revived in 1978 on the legacy of the revolutionary Wafd party of 1919, a fact which constitutes both its strength and its weakness. It could not revive its former leading role in Egyptian politics, not only because of the restrictions imposed on political parties, but mainly because of its failure to adapt its platform to new realities and its habit of continually referring to the past. It even celebrates occasions which the younger generation cannot relate to (such as the sanctification of its deceased leaders, Zaghlool and Nahas, in August and the anniversary of its founding in 1919).
Although the party champions democracy, it does not practice it within its own ranks, and the High Committee is appointed by the octogenarian chairman, Fouad Serag el Din. As a daily newspaper, Al Wafd enjoys a unique status among the country's press, but according to its critics there is little to the newspaper beyond its front page. Rumors that the newspaper has Saudi Arabian financial backing in the form of grants are denied by the paper. But these rumors gained ground when the newspaper failed to publish a word on the plight of an Egyptian doctor who was flogged in Saudi Arabia after complaining that his son was raped by a teacher. It also failed to champion the cause of Nasr Hamed Abu Zeiid, a professor of Arabic literature ordered by the court to divorce his wife on the grounds that he had denounced Islam. Also, by aligning itself with the Muslim Brotherhood in 1984, it showed itself as a party without many principles.
Internal factionalization due to the leader's advanced age has substantially contributed to the erosion of the Wafd's popularity. In its platform, it seeks constitutional reform limiting the power of the president and his time in office to two terms, more liberties for professional syndicates and the press, and liberalization of the economy, including acceleration of the pace of economic reform.
No new generation of leaders has appeared since its revitalization in 1978, and due to their boycotting the elections of 1990, they faced enormous problems in mobilizing voters in 1995. There were strong rumors that if it had not been for the government's support, the new leader of the opposition (the leader's brother), 75-year-old Yassin Serag el Din, would have lost his seat to his brilliant and independent rival, 47-year-old physician Hossam Badrawy.
Barely three years old, the Arab Democratic Nasserist party is chaired by Diaeddin Dawood, a cabinet minister and a high Arab Socialist Union (ASU) official under Nasser. The party is torn by internal divisions among three generations of "Nasserists": those who held leading political and military positions during Nasser's era, those who constituted the rank-and-file members of the Arab Socialist Union and its Youth Organization, and a third group of younger people who campaigned for Nasserism in the 1970s and occasionally won control of student unions. The younger generation has a negative view of senior party members, whose only qualifications, they think, are that they were state employees under Nasser. The old guard believes that the younger generation (who are in their forties today) lack political experience.1 Desperately seeking a "new" Nasser, party members have been slow to establish strong new cadres.
The fact that the party could not nominate more than 43 candidates in the 1995 elections indicates a lack of grassroots support. Moreover, its newspaper's circulation is no more than 40,000. Although Nasser outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and sent thousands of its members to jail, some Nasserists now advocate closer ties with the Islamists. According to Hamdin Sabahi, a member of the Nasserist political bureau and a representative of the younger generation, Nasserists and Islamists have four areas of agreement: both are opposed to American hegemony, Zionism and government corruption and both call for greater freedoms. The party opposed the reelection of President Mubarak for a third term in the 1993 national referendum. The party also boycotted the 1994 National Dialogue Conference because it was chaired by the late President Anwar Sadat's former prime minister, who was one of the architects of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The party remains strongly opposed to normalizing relations with Israel. The party's platform is inconsistent: while showing a readiness to participate in development programs, it centralizes economic power in the government's hands. The platform also fails to take into account many of the changes which have taken place in Egypt, the region and the world. It advocates the dominance of the public sector at a time when the whole world is privatizing and has not offered detailed alternatives to any policies of the NOP, either domestic or foreign.
One of the major surprises of the elections was the defeat of the party's chairman (the only seat gained was Hamdin Sabahi's). The party might still have a future, however, because there is widespread sentiment in favor of the Nasserist "package": national independence, social justice, stronger links with the Arab world. Even the vocabulary of the official political discourse tends to smack of a "new Nasserism."2 Amidst all sorts of denunciations of rigging and fraud, a leading Nasserist thinker, Abdel Halim Gandil, predicted that violent anger against the state will not be the exclusive preserve of the Islamists.3
Dismissed by political analysts as a party with contradictory policies and no coherent ideology,4 the Liberal party-led by the former Free Officer, 75-year-old Mustapha Kamel Murad-came into existence in 1976 on the authority of a decree from President Sadat. With little, if any, grassroots support, Sadat envisioned the party as what could best be described as a loyalist opposition group. Murad did not disappoint him. Supporting Sadat's peace overtures to Israel, he accompanied him on his 1977 trip to Jerusalem. He also backed his economic open-door policy. In 1987, Murad made a complete reversal, opening the party's doors to Islamists who were seeking an officially recognized forum for their political activity. He even grew a beard. His party backtracked on its support of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel and, ignoring its supposedly liberal ideology, even advocated the establishment of an Islamic state.
Murad went further in the elections held in 1987, forging a coalition with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and Ibrahim Shoukry's Labor party. Along with opposition parties (with the exception of Tagammu) the Liberals boycotted the 1990 elections. In this year's election the coalition with Labor and the Brotherhood was disbanded, although the three groups are said to have pledged not to run against each other for the same parliamentary party nominated 61 candidates. Among the most prominent was the party's deputy chairman and editor of its daily newspaper Al Ahrar, Moustafa Bakry, who ran against the minister of Waqfs (religious endowment) in the suburb of Helwan, forcing the latter into the second round. However, Bakry, who had collected allegations of electoral fraud against his rival, pulled out of the race when the physical harassment by the minister's private "armed bodyguards" and the mud-slinging, (calling him a "passive homosexual") became too much for him. The party won one seat. Political experts are in agreement that the party has no consistent policy, little grassroots support and, consequently, no future.
The Labor Party
When the Socialist Labor party was founded by Ibrahim Shukri in 1978 with Sadat's backing, it was widely believed that it would not amount to much more than a "loyal opposition." But Shukri, a socialist who had his roots in the semifascist Misr al Fatat (Young Egypt) party, quickly broke loose from Sadat's attempt to control his new party, denouncing the peace treaty with Israel, which he had earlier supported, and opposing other government policies. The party's membership included at that time a spectrum of ideologies ranging from Nasserism to socialism, to radical nationalism. But it lacked an organizational infrastructure and did not represent a cogent political force.
In 1984, after Adel Hussein, a Marxist convert to Islamist activism, became a member, the party underwent major upheavals which led to a virtual Islamist takeover. Analysts agree that Hussein's arrival shook the very foundations of the party's structure, dividing members into pro-Islamist and pro-socialist factions. Other members simply left the party.
One of the party's major problems is political ambivalence. After its conversion to Islamism, it dropped its vague socialist mottoes, which included social justice and Arab unity, and introduced strident Islamist slogans in an attempt to absorb a part of the phenomenon of Islamic resurgence that Egypt has witnessed since the late 1970s. The party did benefit from the prevailing lslamist climate with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Liberal party. Labor gained from the strong Brotherhood group and their grassroots support, and the Brotherhood found in the Labor party a channel for projecting its political views, both among party members and to the party at large.
Its official mouthpiece Al Shaab is recognized as the most fiery opposition paper, a distinction that has often brought its editors and writers before state prosecutors. Magdi Hussein and his predecessor are the architects of the newspaper's editorial policy of scathing attacks on corruption among the highest officials, as well as Zionism, American hegemony, the Oslo agreement, the proposed Middle East market and Westernization. Its fiery language, close to demagogy, particularly in addressing Islamic issues, has laid it open to charges of fanaticism.
The confrontation between Al Shaab and the government reached its peak when Adel Hussein spent 25 days in police custody in mid-1995 after antigovernment literature was allegedly found on a plane seat he had occupied. The case against Magdi Hussein, expected to be heard in January 1996, will be the first time the controversial Law 93 for 1995 has been invoked against a journalist. This law provides harsh penalties for the publication of false or malicious news. Many analysts believe that in passing this law, the government was targeting the opposition press and Al Shaab in particular.5 Labor nominated around 120 candidates, prominent among whom were party leader Ibrahim Shukri and the party's secretary general, Adel Hussein, who ran against the minister of sports in Nasr City. Both were defeated the first round and none of their candidates have won.
Tagammu (National Progressive Unionist Party)
Tagammu, founded in 1976 and led by veteran Free Officer Khaled Mohi el Din, 76, is the furthest left on the spectrum, comprising Marxists, socialists and Arab nationalists. The party slogan is "Against Corruption, Against Terrorism, for more Democracy, for more Bread." "We are against enforcing religion in political life," is repeatedly written by party Secretary General Rifaat el Said in their journal, Al Ahaly. Strongly opposed to political Islam, which it deems totally undemocratic, the party forcefully espouses the cause of "national unity" (meaning between Muslims and Copts) and claims to be the representative of the "wretched" of the earth. The appeal to workers and peasants, which showed some promise when the party was first organized, has suffered a noticeable decline during the past decade due to the inability of the party leadership to fashion appeals and organizational methods to mobilize non-bourgeois constituencies.
Fear of Islamist violence has led most of the secular opposition, more particularly Tagammu, to move closer to the regime and to lose much of its character as an opposition.6 Thus, the party has supported President Mubarak's reelection on the grounds that all the likely alternatives would be hostile to secular intellectuals. It was the only opposition party that ran in the 1990 elections, and it garnered five seats. In these last elections it had about 40 candidates competing. As a courtesy and as indirect support to the Tagammu leader, who was running in the Delta town of Kafr Shuler, NDP fielded a weak candidate to face Mohi El Din. His main rival, a Wafdist candidate, forced him to the second round, which prompted several NOP leaders to travel to his constituency and declare their support for the leftist former leader of the opposition in Parliament! This fact did not go unnoticed; Mohi El Din was the butt of a scathing criticism in the new Al Destour, the first independent newspaper. He was cited among the ten worst personalities of the year.7
The Muslim Brothers
Relations between the Muslim Brothers and the consecutive regimes that have governed Egypt since the July 1952 Revolution have assumed diverse forms. The short honeymoon period with the Nasser regime that followed the revolution was abruptly terminated when, in 1954, members of the Brotherhood attempted to assassinate Nasser. An intense confrontation followed, and the organization was declared illegal. It disappeared until Sadat came to power in 1970 and allowed it to return to the political scene in 1974.8
Sadat released Brotherhood members from prison and allowed the organization to reestablish itself. The Brotherhood published its own papers, built new mosques, schools and clinics and, encouraged by Sadat's strategy, worked to counteract the influence of leftist and Nasserist forces. The Brotherhood's influence grew, and by 1974 the universities became one of their prominent strongholds. The rapprochement with Sadat's regime did not last long, however. Relations deteriorated following the visit to Jerusalem in 1978 and the signing of the Camp David accords, and hit bottom with Sadat's assassination in 1981.
When Mubarak came to power in the "autumn of fury" of 1981, his principal objective was to defuse the tension of the last few months of Sadat's rule. The Mubarak regime embraced a political vision that rested on three main pillars. From 1981 to 1988, the Egyptian regime endeavored to distinguish between the Brotherhood and other radical Islamic groups. It defined its main enemy as those hard-line Islamist entities behind Sadat's assassination and who resorted to force in their confrontation with the government. At the same time, the regime sought to widen the country's political power base by allowing the Brotherhood to function openly and even form alliances with the regime itself in an attempt to confront the threat of radical Islamists.
Convinced that the Brotherhood posed no real threat, the regime continued to overlook its growing presence until 1984. The alliance between the Brotherhood and the Wafd, its traditional foe, resulted in unprecedented gains for the opposition in the 1984 elections. This alerted the regime to the potential political force of the Brotherhood and prompted it to closely examine the organization's activities.9
The results of the 1987 elections aroused even more anxiety within the regime. The Brotherhood once more formed an alliance, this time with the Labor and Liberal parties. Contesting under the slogan "Islam is the solution," the alliance made sweeping gains, improving on the Brotherhood's 1984 record. At the same time, radical Islamic groups like Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and Jihad intensified their attacks, which increasingly came to target prominent figures within the regime.10 This period also witnessed the proliferation of the so-called Islamic investment companies, many of which had ties to the Brotherhood.
Of even more concern to the regime was the intensive and successful campaign the Brotherhood launched to take over professional syndicates and university staff clubs. Meanwhile, the Islamic Alliance's parliamentary bloc was becoming more vocal, and its criticism more harsh.
In 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the dissolution of the People's Assembly, following a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling finding its election unconstitutional, marked the beginning of a new stage in relations between the regime and the Brotherhood. New parliamentary elections in November 1990 were boycotted by all the main opposition parties (save the left-wing Tagammu) who charged that the government had failed to provide sufficient guarantees for fair and free elections. This position, taken by the forces of the Islamic Alliance, foremost among which is the Muslim Brotherhood, angered the regime, which saw this as an attempt to embarrass it before domestic and international public opinion.
The 1991 Gulf War cast its shadow not only on the regional scene, but also on the domestic political situation in Egypt. The aftermath of the war highlighted the social and political fissures in society and deepened the polarization between the religious and secular trends. The Brotherhood's successful 1992 seizure of control of the Lawyers' Syndicate, a traditionally liberal stronghold, was a significant milestone that further intensified the anxieties of the secularists and the regime alike.
By the end of 1993, the regime was under direct and relentless attack from radical Islamist groups and intensified its battle against them. Censuring the Brotherhood for its failure to clearly condemn the militants' campaign of violence, the regime began to move towards a new political and security perspective on the movement. Within this new perspective, which became increasingly influential within the regime's ranks, the earlier distinction between the radical Islamists and the Brotherhood faded, and the lslamist movement as a whole began to be seen as a single but multifaceted trend, operating in accordance with a central and well-coordinated plan.
Thus, the outlawed Brotherhood came to be seen as the political and propaganda wing of the movement, whose armed and violent wing was represented by the Gamaa and the Jihad. The declared contradictions between the Brotherhood and the militants were deemed no more than a false front put up by the Brotherhood to mask the truth about an alliance within a single movement working toward identical aims. Since 1993, in spite of numerous critiques of this perspective by figures within and outside the regime, it came increasingly to determine the regime's behavior toward the Brotherhood.
In 1993, government legislation was aimed at curbing the influence of the Brotherhood in the professional syndicates. Starting from the premise that the Brotherhood had been able to seize control of the syndicates through acting as a highly organized and disciplined minority, Law 100 (1993) stipulated that syndicate elections required the participation of at least 50 percent of the general assembly. This law was further stiffened early in 1995.
The escalation of the battle between the regime and the Brotherhood began in earnest in mid-1994, when a considerable number of Brotherhood leaders were arrested on charges of sedition. Early in 1995 the clash between the regime and the syndicates took a dangerous downturn. The Brotherhood-dominated Engineers' Syndicate was put under judicial custody, its council dismissed and its Cairo offices seized by security forces. At the same time the state and its secularist allies launched an ideological counteroffensive against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist trend in general. And for the first time television participated in the campaign directly through the release of a number of drama series specifically targeting the radical Islamist groups.
It has been suggested that the regime's increasing anxiety about Brotherhood influence is related to suspicions vis-a-vis the U.S. government's position on Algeria. The American administration has been pushing the government to open dialogue with moderate Islamists, with a view to giving them a share in power. Apprehension that Washington may adopt a position sympathetic to the Brotherhood in Egypt was compounded by leaked reports of contacts between U.S. officials and Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
The precarious nature of the Brotherhood's relationship with the Mubarak regime can be seen to have culminated in the current confrontation. Just two months before parliamentary elections, a presidential decree was issued referring 45 defendants belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to trial by military court (37 more were arrested later on). The first two military trials ended on November 23 (six days before election day) with 54 convictions and the closure of the organization's headquarters in Cairo. The most prominent defendants received five years of hard labor, including the secretary general of the Medical Syndicate, Essam al Eryan. Another 40 were given three years of hard labor; another nine, two years.
The Brotherhood claims that these men were targeted to prevent them from campaigning for the People's Assembly. Approximately 16 of the defendants were planning to run for parliament; fourteen of them had been members of the 1987 Assembly.
Other members of the 1987 People's Assembly contested the elections, including the son of the organization's founder, Seifel Islam Hassan el Banna, and Maamoun el Hodeiby, the organization's spokesman, who ran against the minister of social affairs. At least one member of the Brotherhood (running as an independent) has made it to parliament in the North Delta port of Damietta. Although the Brotherhood's list of candidates did not include any women, 37 Islamist women poll watchers were arrested on the day of the elections. They were immediately released.11
Furthermore, security forces arrested hundreds of lslamist political activists 48 hours before the elections, including many of the Brotherhood's registered poll watchers, according to the organization.12 However, it should be noted that the election campaign coincided with the terrorist attack on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, where three militant Islamist groups claimed responsibility for the attack.13 News of the attack was greeted with tremendous outrage on the part of the general public and played an important role in alienating most voters against the Brotherhood. In addition, the attempted assassination of President Mubarak in Ethiopia during the summer of 1995 was claimed to be the work of members of these same terrorist organizations.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE 1995 ELECTIONS
In the largest parliamentary elections in Egypt's history, voters went to the polls on November 29, 1995, to choose MPs to fill the 444 seats of a new People's Assembly, which is intended to shape the nation's political and economic future for the next five years. The Assembly's seats were contested by a record 3,989 candidates (a 34 percent increase from the 1990 elections) including 3,150 independents (almost 80 percent of the total) in an almost 10-to-1 scramble for 444 Assembly seats. For more than four weeks they were locked in what was probably the fiercest election battle in more than four decades.
In addition to the independents, who included about 100 candidates representing the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, all the major parties, led by the ruling NOP took part. The NOP fielded 439 candidates, followed by the Wafd (182), the Islamist-oriented Labor party (120), the Liberals (61), the Nasserists (43) and the leftist Tagammu 35.14 The rest of the smaller and mostly insignificant parties (8) fielded between 5 and 10 candidates each. Eight women candidates ran mostly as independents; the NDP fielded 7 women out of 439, the Wafd 4, Labor 3, Tagammu one, amounting to 2 percent. Twelve ministers competed on the NOP platform, 110 former MPs were rejected, and the number of NOP "renegades" reached 1,350 candidates (running against the NOP).
One set of data related to the distribution of candidates is their background characteristics. There was a much greater variety than in previous elections. For example, 107 were university professors, 314 lawyers, 179 doctors and pharmacists, 37 journalists, 200 from the business community. This seems to suggest an effort by non-political personalities with important credentials to turn their resources into political power.
As to the content of the debate, none of the electoral platforms included any of the "hot" issues that have been the core of the political debate (in the press, conferences, etc.): overpopulation, peace with Israel, partnership with Europe, the Middle East Common Market, terrorism, the deficiencies of the education system and Egypt's technological backwardness.
Secondly, all parties avoided dealing with controversial issues, relying more on generalized political positions mostly steeped in nostalgia and deriving from their traditional ideologies, thus forsaking the opportunity of adapting their public discourse to the new realities of the Middle East. The Wafd, for example, views twenty-first-century Egypt with the mentality of the fifties. As for the Nasserists and Tagammu, the Egypt of the sixties dominates their vision, while the Labor party envisages an Islamic society that prevailed fourteen centuries ago.15 The lack of effort on the part of the political parties to make their platforms relevant to the individual campaigns served to reinforce the general apathy of the more enlightened sectors of the electorate, depriving the country of their contribution to decision making and problem solving.
Although predictions on the intensity of the campaign were made in the preelectoral phase, the campaign proved to be much more violent than many, including the authorities, had expected. (According to some analysts, the violence was the worst since the beginning of parliamentary life in 1866.) Measures of this intensity can be found in the unprecedented number of candidates and the enormous sums of money spent on the campaign. According to some observers, costs involved amounted to one billion Egyptian pounds, with an average of 100,000 L.E. spent on every candidate,16 making a farce of the law stipulating a 5,000 L.E. ceiling per candidate. Given that the per capita annual GNP in Egypt is roughly 2,110 L.E. ($630), these are considerable sums.17
A more systematic indication of the intensity and nature of the campaign can be gained through a study of the extent of violence it called forth. In roughly four weeks there were 620 injuries and about 45 deaths. There were some spectacular incidents such as the shooting of the son and nephew of a prominent NOP official in Kena, and a gun battle between the prime minister's brother, Adel Sidky (NOP), and the independent millionaire candidate Atteya el Fayoumi, whose son was the NOP secretary in the Toukh constituency. All through the campaign there was a pattern of persistent violence, as in many areas the con test was between powerful families and clans, reviving the old spirit of traditional rural politics. By election day the head bashing and ballot-book snatching had become so intense-brothers striving against brothers, families and clans split asunder, the NOP fighting the NOP-that the Ministry of the Interior was placed on a state of emergency. Even then, specific districts could not be kept under control, and violence with supporters of rival candidates using firearms, iron chains and heavy sticks broke out on the eve of the first election.18
An independent election-watch committee held the government, opposition parties of the Brotherhood and independents all responsible for irregularities in the first round of parliamentary elections. Widescale fraud in numerous electoral districts did not only favor the candidates of the ruling party. The committee received complaints about vote rigging by candidates of the main opposition parties and independents including Brotherhood members.19 The opposition and independent election observers claimed that the second round of voting was more fraudulent and violent than the first. Visits by Middle East Times reporters to four districts in Cairo and the Delta supported these allegations by claiming that "the police ejected the opposition, shut the police stations and filled the ballot boxes to the brim."20 Local officials were seen to intervene so blatantly in favor of NOP candidates that the interior minister himself ordered an investigation of the cases of 12 police officers and men accused of biased policing.
As expected, the NOP won an overwhelming victory. With more than 96 percent of the seats (417), it had crushed the opposition: the Wafd gained 6 seats, Tagammu 4, the Nasserists 1, the Liberals 1, the independents 14. It is interesting to note however that the NDP's share of the popular vote in the first round, where competition was "unrestricted" in the number of candidates, was quite low: only 123 NOP candidates passed the first round; 13 independents and none of the opposition party candidates succeeded. Official figures for the rate of participation in the election seemed to resolve at around 50 percent of the 20 million registered voters. In urban areas it was lower.
However, the second round witnessed a much lower turnout, which suggests that the intensity of the violence as well as reports of glaring abuses which took place in the first round might have deterred many voters from returning to the polls. In fact, the Administrative Court had ruled on December 5, 1995, (the eve of the elections) that the results announced by the Ministry of the Interior in 109 constituencies (i.e., 46 percent of the total) should be annulled before the second round. The government dismissed the ruling, and the second round took place in 69 percent of the constituencies (222) with 612 candidates: 261 NDP, 14 Wafd, 7 Tagammu, 5 Nasserists, 2 Labor and 321 independents, including 35 Muslim Brotherhood.21
The results of the elections reveal a severe crisis within the government, the opposition and society as a whole. Many members of the ruling NDP who ran as independents, showed that they did not adhere to the simplest party principles, reflecting a state of anarchy and division in party ranks. The failure of the opposition to win a single seat in the first round could be due to its absence from parliament for the past five years, during which NDP deputies managed to strengthen their position with their constituents. The opposition was paying the price of absence: they only nominated a limited number of candidates and did not cover all the constituencies. This amounted to an admission that they could not act as an alternative to the NDP, although it is also true that freedom-restricting laws-such as the emergency law-badly affected their performance and obstructed their links with voters. On the other hand, it is hard to believe that the political support enjoyed by the Egyptian Left, which for the past 20 years has been in almost continuous discussion of the ..crisis on the left," is five times as strong as that of both the Brotherhood and the Labor party. Let us grant that a more temperate electoral climate would have resulted in a considerably greater Islamist representation-though no more than 30-odd seats, I would argue-which, while definitely no threat to the ruling NDP's parliamentary monopoly, would have resulted in a higher opposition representation.
On the other hand, there are a number of features of the outcome of the election to which the supporters of the "democratization" process point as positive indicators. First, many analysts mentioned the large voter turnout and general interest among the public at large, the media and the parties in the elections and the results, indicating a growing political awareness. Second, two ministers who ran for election, were severely tested, and could not win outright against opposition members was seen as a positive indication. Third, the government (including the president himself) and the rest of the political parties encouraged people to go to the polls, which they did in greater numbers than usual. Fourth, a landmark ruling by the Administrative Court declared part of the voter registration in Nasr City illegal: 13,517 people had been illegally added to the voting list in the Stadium ward of the constituency. Before the addition, the ward comprised only 1,117 voters. Voters had been moved en masse from all over Egypt on the instruction of the sports minister, who was standing for election in this constituency for the ruling NDP. The ruling is a precedent because it is the first time the high Administrative Court has corrected voting lists, and it has put in place significant principles for judging the legality of voting registrars.22 Fifth, the unprecedented number of Coptic candidates (57) and women (83) participating in the election was an unusual feature since 1952.
Concerning this last point, however, a few remarks seem to be in order: Coptic candidates have done better than expected in this year's People's Assembly elections, despite the failure of most parties to include them in their lists of candidates. According to independent election monitors, 57 Coptic candidates ran this year and five have gone to runoff elections, a substantial improvement over 1990, in which the only Coptic representatives in Parliament were appointed by the president. But Coptic expectations were higher this year than last. Parties catered to Coptic voters, and the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, ordered parish priests to encourage Copts to register to vote, suggesting that registration would be rewarded with Coptic candidates.
The parties did not follow through. The ruling NDP failed to nominate a single Christian in its list of 444 candidates.23 Among the opposition, the Wafdists and the Tagammu, two parties which have pledged themselves to promoting Christian-Muslim understanding, nominated nine and one Christian candidates respectively. The Islamic Labor party nominated two, one of whom, Gamal Assad, pulled out, allegedly because the party refused to give him electoral support.
In an unusually outspoken interview, published on November 30, 1995, in the London-based daily Al Hayat, the pope expressed his disappointment with the parties-particularly with the NOP-for not coming through with any Coptic nominees. "Maybe [the NDP] is worried that the Coptic candidates can't compete in all-out battle with a certain trend [the Islamist] ...but I can't agree with this way of thinking because there are many districts with a large number of Copts, and maybe they would elect a Coptic candidate." As none of Egypt's 222 electoral districts has a Coptic majority, the parties believe that nominating a Copt is bad strategy. In at least one district, the NDP got its comeuppance for failing to nominate a Christian. In the Sohag district of Maragha, Coptic candidate Sobhi Suleiman, a defector from the NDP, beat the government's nominee. Suleiman, a popular patriarch from one of the richest families in the region, had represented the area before and was considered to be an easy NDP seat, if they had nominated him. Another five candidates-four of whom are independents from Shubra's three districts and another a Wafdist from Al Weily-went on to the run-off elections on December 6. The remaining 49 were knocked out. On the second round none of the Coptic candidates was successful.
The pope as well as several critics suggested that if nominating a Christian was a losing proposition in a competitive race, then other mechanisms should be found such as a quota system, or the return to proportional elections, or the inclusion in the Constitution of one seat set aside for Christians in areas which are heavily Coptic, much as one seat in each district is allocated to a worker or a peasant. Though the president nominates a few Copts (six have been appointed) among the 10 presidential appointees, many feared that the government's refusal to place any confidence in a Coptic parliamentary candidate means that the largely Muslim government will also not share power with members of the Christian minority.24 Some have openly blamed the NDP Secretary General, El Shazli, as being responsible and accused him of being a "failure."25 Others saw that though police work was one side of the response to the terror of the Islamists, the other was a discernible retreat on the part of the regime from secular politics and culture, conceding growing ground to militant lslamists. Thus, the "cynical bargain" in the elections came to be viewed as "keep the Islamists out but also the Copts." This attitude has emboldened many to use sectarian slogans such as enticing the electorate not to vote for "infidels" (i.e., Christians). Many analysts fear that Copts will go back to a siege mentality after these elections, a fact that does not bode well for democracy.
As for women, only 15 of them had been nominated by the parties to contest elections: the NDP, 7; the Wafd, 3; Labor, 3; Tagammu, 1. The rest nominated themselves as independent candidates, an indication of the still controversial relationship between women and politics in Egypt, 40 years after women won the right to vote and stand for elections. Between 1960 and 1976, the number of women who held seats in parliament varied between two and eight. To rectify this dismal state of affairs, constitutional reforms passed in 1979 set aside 30 seats for women. More than 200 women ran for the newly-created seats. The successful 30 joined three women who defeated male candidates and two who were appointed, to bring to 35 the number of Egyptian women in parliament in 1984. However, the Supreme Constitutional Court cancelled the women's seats in 1987 on the grounds that they violated the principle of equality and were therefore deemed unconstitutional. The number of women parliamentarians took a nosedive, leaving only 14 female lawmakers, 13 of whom were members of the NDP.
Only seven women succeeded in the 1990 elections while three others were appointed by the president. This year's elections saw five women (NDP) elected and four appointed. Many women activists have called for a return to the quota system through a constitutional amendment as a temporary solution to women's poor political performance, particularly in a male-dominated society that still regards women warily.26
Low voter participation is another reason. Although the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, chaired by Mrs. Mubarak, has been urging women to participate more actively in politics, and particularly to register as voters, a study carried out by nongovernmental organizations for the 1994 Population Conference claimed that 92.6 percent of Egyptian women were not registered on the voting lists. And only 27.9 percent of those registered actually vote.27
On the negative side, the unprecedented violence and the supremacy of wealth, part of which was spent on the militia or the thugs that were meant to harass opponents, were the two main characteristics of the 1995 campaign. Moreover, the elections have laid bare how insignificant political parties have become, as they are organized around persons and not issues. The entry of a large number of independents demonstrated a massive rejection of existing party systems and the rise of new and large electoral forces whose common denominator was simply that they were not identified with any of the old parties. At the same time the decline of the organized mass parties-class based, ideological or both-eliminated the major social engine for turning men and women into politically active citizens. For most people even the collective identification with their country now came more easily through the national sports teams and non-political symbols than through the institutions of the state.
CONCLUSION: PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRACY
While there is no doubt that political participation has flourished as the state's control system has diminished, it is also clear that the interests articulated by different groups were not expressed by the various opposition parties; hence the number of candidates running independently and the lack of linkage between a citizen-level politics and national decision making. What we are witnessing instead is an uneasy co-existence of multiple institutions backed by contesting legitimacy formulas, without a consensus regarding the rights and obligations of each. What has occurred is a pluralization of the public space, yet it has been liberal neither in intent nor outcome.
What then would be the best formula for political liberalization? No doubt the power-sharing model could facilitate orderly and non-violent change. To some extent, Egypt used this strategy in the beginning of the eighties. But the problem is that incumbent elites have become more reluctant to share power. As we saw, the NDP was already guaranteed to win at least 75 percent of the seats, but it insisted on capturing 95 percent. This strategy runs counter to the power sharing concept; the government ends up alienating groups whose support it needs. The prevailing situation, when local leaders compete to the point of killing each other to secure a seat in parliament carries the risk of dividing and fragmenting the local elite on which the government and the state rely to support their policies and guarantee stability inside the country.
Another explanation for the unwillingness of incumbent elites to disengage from "authoritarian" liberalism focuses on the weakening of the middle class as a result of economic crisis and the perceived threat of the Islamists. The weakening of the middle class has led to the declining strength of opposition political parties that have been among the principal advocates of political freedoms and democratic process.28 The refusal of the government to widen the scope of participation was also influenced by its fear of the Islamists, who managed to capitalize on the shortcomings of the state to increase their following among the poorer sectors of society. Faced with this challenge, the government has sought to curb the influence of Islamists through political participation. Moreover, the inability of the government to forge a new social contract or democratic bargain has undermined the appeal of the secular counterbalance.
What these elections have shown is that there is an increased demand for political participation. Unless Egypt makes the political system more inclusive, strengthening, for example, the power of the local council members (33,000 seats), which will prevent the mad scramble for a parliamentary seat,29 it runs the risk of encountering more disorder in the immediate future. Another mechanism to prevent the fragmentation of the local elites is to reinvigorate the party system.30 As it is now, local elites do not represent an advantage to the NDP but rather the opposite. The limits and controls that the governing elite have imposed on the evolution of the party system are backfiring.
Reforms of the political system that go beyond guaranteeing stability-the main objective-would enhance the democratic experiment. The role of political parties and other institutions of civil society appears to be strengthening democratic values. As the case of Turkey, a Middle Eastern state that has had experience with democracy since the late 1940s, suggests, the transition from authoritarian to democratic politics is laden with difficulties, and the process can be temporarily reversed when widespread violence causes instability.
1 Al-Ahram Weekly, November 9-15, 1995.
2 See Al Wasat (no. 206) January 8, 1996. In an interesting analysis of the political discourse, the author of the article cites the "new" orientation in political discourse, referring in particular to Mubarak's speech at the opening of Parliament on December 13, 1995.
3 Middle East Times, December 10-16, 1995, p. 3.
4 Al-Ahram Weekly, November 23-29, 1995.
5 Al-Ahram Weekly, October 26-November 2, 1995.
6 See Mona Makram-Ebeid, "Democratization in Egypt: the 'Algeria Complex,'" Middle East Policy, vol. III, no. 3, 1994.
7 Al Destour, December 27, 1995. In a private interview with the author, Mohi EL Din denied these accusations as false and plans to sue the editor for libel.
8 See Al Wasat (no. 83) July 7, 1995, p. 15.
9 See Al Wasat (no. 183) July 31, 1995, p. 14.
10 Among the most important were the former speaker of Parliament, Rifaatel Mahgoub; the minister of information, Safwat el Cherif; the minister of the interior, Hassan el Alfi; and the former prime minister, Atif Sidky. Other attacks had included secular thinker Farag Foda and Nobel prize laureate Naguib Mahfouz.
11 According to Al Destour, the American embassy interfered to have them released, as many of them were naturalized American citizens. Al Destour, January 3, 1996.
12 Middle East Times, December 3-9, 1995.
13 Three Egyptian militant groups have claimed responsibility, including Jihad and the Gamaa Islamiya, but the Interior Ministry has focused on the little-known Gamaa al Adala Al Almiya (group for international justice), which became known for the first time on November 15, 1995, when it was the sole group to claim responsibility for the shooting of an Egyptian trade official in Geneva two days earlier.
14 See Al Ahram, November 27, 1995.
15 Al Ahram, November 13, 1995.
16 Rose Al Youssef, December 1995.
17 Between 75 and 80 percent of the population had average monthly family incomes at or below $50. See World Bank 1993, Trends in Developing Economics, p. 156.
18 The minister of endowment's brother had a private security "force" harassing his rival's supporters. He later was arrested by the police, and the minister was replaced in the ensuing cabinet reshuffle in January 1995.
19 See Report of the National Egyptian Committee for monitoring the parliamentary elections, 1995. Released on December 17, 1995.
20 Middle East Times, December 10-16, 1995.
21 See the report by the election watch committee published on the two rounds of elections, which reported many irregularities, including vote-rigging and the arrest of candidates' supporters. In Civil Society, issue 48, December 1995.
22 Even the government's chief editorialist has criticized this event. See lbrahm Saada's scathing editorial in Akhbar El-Yom, December 2, 1995.
23 Some critics described this fact as an outrage and "crime" against the very essence of national unity, the foundations of which had been established firmly in 1919. See Al-Ahly, December 14, 1995.
24 Al Ahram Weekly, December 1995. Two ministers of state were appointed in January 1995.
25 Ibid. Fouad Ajami called Copts a "subordinate community" in Foreign Affairs, vol. 5, no. 5, 1995.
26 Middle East Times, November 26-December 2, 1995.
28 See Mona Makram-Ebeid, "Democratization in Egypt."
29 A significant number of members of the municipal councils, particularly NDP "renegades," ran for the legislative elections. The obstinacy of the government is keeping all decisions highly centralized is one of the main reasons for the increased competition among local leaders for a seat in Parliament.
30 Most of the local leaders ran for elections as independents as the party was unable to include them and consequently could not control them when the necessity arose. The NOP has the largest number of local leaders.
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