CAIRO: The 2009 installment of Egypt’s National Democratic Party’s (NDP) sixth conference couldn’t have come at a more opportune time – for the NDP, that is.
Only days before the annual performance kicked off, a tragic train crash that killed 18 and wounded tens provided the perfect pretext to sacrifice a minister at the alter of our eternal ruling party.
Whether or not he bears responsibility for the accident, freshly axed Transport Minister Mohamed Mansour served a purpose. His forced resignation defused the public resentment against the regime and gave it enough ammunition to flex its muscles during its yearly ritual to renew its promises, this time under the rather audacious slogan of “For Your Sake .
The elements of vaudeville permeating the NDP’s annual charade are hard to miss: the turn of the 19th century theatrical genre was, according to the dictionary definition, a performance “made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill . The acts (and this is where the analogy becomes most potent) include, among others, trained animals, one-act plays, lecturing celebrities and freak shows.
Anyone who has watched or read the newspaper reports on the conference, which has garnered both local and international coverage, will understand exactly what I mean.
By far one of the best analyses of the event was by veteran columnist Salama Ahmad Salama in a piece that ran in Al-Shorouk newspaper on Thursday titled “What happened at the Party Conference.
Salama begins by saying that amid the party’s sloganeering and grandiose statements about its development plans and the special focus it has placed on the interests of farmers and improving education and infrastructure in villages, the NDP was delivering clear signals (“landmines ) in two of its major speeches. These reflect warnings, threats and deals as well as hints as to who are the opponents the regime plans to uproot and who are those the party is willing to cooperate with and engage in dialogue.
The scene, says Salama was meticulously choreographed to betray the hierarchy which currently exists within the NDP and hints at who its future leaders will be. While speeches by head of the policies secretariate Gamal Mubarak and head of organization Ahmed Ezz appeared to “dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s , President Mubarak’s speech focused on the future “as he see it, not according to the people’s will , emphasizing the “youth’s role and the party’s preparedness for the 2010 legislative elections, but deliberately ignoring any mention of the 2011 presidential race, leaving the issue prey to “speculation and obsessions .
Mubarak Senior left the task of attacking other parties and non-official opposition movements to his son Gamal and steel mogul MP Ezz. In keeping with the general policy of pretending that it’s too premature to discuss the 2011 presidential race, Ezz laid down his strategy for how the NDP will sweep the legislative elections, stressing the rejection of any international monitors (playing the national sovereignty card). His overt attack on the Muslim Brotherhood was unprecedented in this official setting, a fact that, Salama says, signals a vicious crackdown on the popular Islamist group that is tantamount to a kiss of death.
He concludes by noting that when Gamal Mubarak says that it is illogical to amend Article 77 of the constitution related to the maximum number of terms a president may stay in office; and that when the “citizenship issue is not open for debate; and that the law regulating the building of houses of worship is not a priority despite the growing Muslim-Coptic tension in Egypt, then the “NDP has neither developed nor renewed its core ideas and practices. A stronger Ezz orchestrating the party and a bolder Gamal Mubarak have emerged, but nothing much else.
It’s hard to disagree with Salama, when only a few days after the party concluded its conference, it was reported that Egypt is one of four nations blocking the Anti-Corruption Movement’s consensus on an agreement that will impact the future of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which entered into force in 2005.
Egypt reportedly called for monitoring the UNCAC without civil society involvement, country visits or publicly releasing the findings – all major obstacles to adopting a transparent, accountable and effective system to monitor the implementation of the convention.
The NDP and by extension the regime, has proven that all it’s anti-corruption rhetoric is no more than lip service to a core issue that is clearly absent from the government’s agenda. As expected, the NDP has said nothing new, but has learnt to do so with more coherence and audacity, emboldened by a fragmented civil society and a ruthless security arm.
The change they promise is not coming, so let’s not hold our breath.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.