Middle East

Egypt elections: Viewpoints

People in Cairo walk in front of election poster featuring President Hosni Mubarak (left) and a ruling NDP candidate Image copyright AP
Image caption President Hosni Mubarak (left, on poster) has ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years

Ahead of the parliamentary elections in Egypt, a supporter of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and an opposition activist explain their political stances. Interviews by BBC Arabic's Faisal Irshaid

Youssef Beshay: NDP supporter

I support the NDP for two reasons: First, I believe in the idea of change from the inside as well as gradual change with the support of the ruling power. That suits a country like Egypt, which is primarily based on the idea of central administration and governance.

Second, in the last five years, the ruling party has adopted democratic policies, particularly in the economic sphere. Such economic policies have proved to be the best that can be implemented in Egypt, aimed at high economic growth in excess of 5% per year. But the price of this growth will be inflation.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption Youssef Beshay says the ruling party has the experience to lead Egypt

The ruling party knows well the problems of Egypt and it follows effective policies based on the facts on the ground and research.

Look at the leaders of the National Party [NDP], they are seen as public figures that are able to put ideas into an effective and practical framework. Other parties don't have such leaders.

Other parties are unable to renew themselves or generate new ideas; they are incapable of communicating with the public. They also suffer from internal conflicts which continue to affect their agendas.

There is no problem of corruption or democracy in Egypt. It is true there may be wider scope for democracy, but it is not the biggest problem.

Regarding corruption, if you compare the situation in Egypt with other developing countries or countries in the Middle East, you will realise that Egypt remains in a better position.

The important issues for voters are the services MPs can provide, such as electricity, water, sanitation and housing.

Many Egyptians sees that the real problem is the issue of political succession and inheritance, but in my opinion this word has negative connotations and I prefer not to use it.

I think that President Mubarak is a symbol of stability and I support his presence in the government. He and his party have achieved great things for Egypt and he remains the best person to rule.

He or his son Gamal Mubarak are both capable of pushing Egypt in the right direction. The legal framework for the inheritance of power is not the main issue in the Egyptian street.

If you look at the economic situation, you will find that the unemployment rate is reasonable and manageable, but the problem lies in the hidden unemployment, such as excess employment in the public sector.

Inflation is the real problem. Its rate over the last three years has reached about 11% and the impact of this issue is great on the Egyptian street. Any party that seeks the support of the majority needs to address this problem.

Wages are the most important economic issue, but the solution to this problem is very difficult. People are demanding a raise in the minimum wage to 600 Egyptian pounds ($104; £66) and if the government agrees prices would rise dramatically. If the government wants to raise the minimum wage this would result in the removal of subsidies on other goods or services.

The National Party will retain a majority in the parliament. I expect the Muslim Brotherhood to lose about 30-50% of their seats. This is because the popularity of their MPs has been affected dramatically. They have failed to provide services and they have made their internal conflicts public in an unprecedented way.

I expect greater representation of women through the women's quota. The biggest challenges for the next parliament are to approve two pieces of legislation: the first is the Health Insurance Act, and the second is the minimum wage.

Shahir George Ishaq - National Association for Change

I'm not with the National Party as the party is non-democratic, and one that forces me to accept its rule without having the right to choose.

The opposition is trying to operate outside the rules of the game, which means it is working sincerely for democracy. The opposition calls for a civil state that provides freedom for its citizens and it calls for social welfare, in contrast to the ruling party that has fierce economic policies that do not take into account the poor.

Image copyright (C) British Broadcasting Corporation
Image caption Shahir George Ishaq says corruption is one of Egypt's worst problems

There is no room for free and fair elections in which more than one political party can participate.

The current situation does not indicate any positive change in the near future. There are restrictions on the media and control over the parties. What I hope for is the parties to communicate with the masses without the intervention of the authorities. Citizens' participation is currently weak because people have lost hope for change and reform.

Inheritance is rejected in any respectable country, but the biggest problem is democracy, because Egypt does not have the rules of democracy that help in building democratic political parties and trade unions.

The question is whether the Egyptian regime considers itself a democratic one and accepts the devolution of power or a system that claims democracy through elections?

The answer in my opinion is the second. Elections do not allow real competition in light of parties and trade unions being dominated and therefore not having the space of freedom. Most important is the creation of institutions for the circulation of information and power - in other words, decentralisation. This is what the opposition calls for.

The economic situation in Egypt is difficult.

About 40% of the population is living on or below the poverty line. This ratio is insulting to the Egyptian people. If you compare Egypt with countries of similar resources and check the rate of development you'll note that Egypt's economic position is very low. This is because of policies of wealth distribution that are unfair. Some state employees have a salary of a million pounds and some make only 400 Egyptian pounds. Is that fair? I don't think so. Therefore the issue is not only a question of resources, but policies for the distribution of wealth.

The unemployment rate is also growing. There is no vocational training by the government and this does not augur a bright future for young people. It leads to social and economic problems.

Rates of poverty and corruption in Egypt are very disturbing. Whenever you deal with the government through any department you will end up facing some sort of corruption. The state allows corruption as it cannot combat it.

I expect the victory of the ruling party, which will gain the two-thirds of parliament it needs to pass all laws and regulations that it wishes. It is impossible for fair elections to take place in the absence of judicial oversight. This means that a lot of fraud will take place in the best interests of the ruling party.

The next parliament will remain a tool to provide services and not a tool for legislative power in the country. It will continue to pass legislation for the benefit of the ruling party, which means no change.

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