Viewpoint: Egypt's ruling NDP guarantees stability

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Egyptian women voters
Image caption,
Two rounds of voting saw the government win overwhelmingly, amid widespread claims of fraud

The overwhelming victory of the ruling party in elections for Egypt's lower house of parliament raised myriad questions about the political system.

Concerns were expressed by the European Union and the United States after the National Democratic Party (NDP) won 87% of the 508 seats. There have also been international reports of voting fraud.

To shed light on this sweeping win for the ruling party and setbacks for the opposition, the realities of Egypt's political environment and the public mood must be analysed.

In terms of explaining the support for the government, a first point to bear in mind is that Egyptian voters value the stability it ensures in a turbulent region.

The head of the NDP, President Hosni Mubarak, has been in power for 29 years, and is seen as guaranteeing national security.

The common man might not be satisfied with the economic conditions, where the benefits of reforms have yet to trickle-down to all the country's poor.

However, when it comes to the well-being of his family he is likely to draw on that saying: "Better the devil you know."

'Increased credibility'

The appeal of the NDP can also be explained by the full preparations it made for the 2010 elections having learnt painful lessons from the past.

Image caption,
President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, is an important Western ally

The president's campaign, launched in 2005, led to a comprehensive political platform and increased its credibility.

By contrast, the biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which caused surprise when it won a fifth of parliamentary seats in 2005, focused on slogans rather than feasible programmes in this election.

Like the secular opposition parties, it had also suffered damaging internal leadership disputes.

Another reason why the Islamist movement, which is prohibited but organises its members to run as independents in elections, might have lost public sympathy and support is because of doubts about the effectiveness of its bloc in the last parliament.

There were also suggestions it conspired with the Palestinian group, Hamas, to smuggle weapons to Egypt that led to doubts about its patriotism.

The NDP has the largest membership base of any political group in Egypt and structural adjustments after parliamentary elections in 2000 and 2005 have made it stronger.

It has reorganised bylaws and the system to select party nominees.

This meant that contrary to some reports in the international media, the nomination process was carried out fairly, according to internal electoral college votes, to introduce popular candidates in each district.

These included representatives from all sectors of society. On the other hand, the largest official opposition party, the Wafd, nominated figure-heads who did not have the same grassroots appeal.

Legitimate political techniques were used to help ensure the NDP had a clear win in competitive electoral districts. More than one candidate for the party was allowed in a district. This stopped good candidates being passed over and running as independents as happened in the past.

Supervision and scrutiny

Human rights groups and foreign press coverage have focused extensively on allegations of electoral fraud.

It is important to note that the High Electoral Commission, an independent body, supervised the entire election process.

Image caption,
Protests have taken place against what the opposition said was widespread vote rigging

After the first round, it stated that 1,298 ballot boxes out of 89,958 had been discarded due to irregularities. This accounted for just 1.4% of the total and did not undermine the integrity of the poll.

While much attention was given to claims about a lack of monitors, it should be pointed out that nearly 2,300 judges supervised the process and 6,130 observers affiliated to 76 Egyptian civil institutions.

This is a transitional stage in the political history of Egypt, and like many I had hoped for a wider representation of secular opposition in the new parliament.

Instead though, it is possible we could now look to the experience of the Liberal Democratic Party that dominated the Japanese Diet for almost 55 years.

Like this ruling party, the NDP can function as an "umbrella" party, embracing a range of political streams that reflect the interests of the different factions and interests of Egyptian society.

Maged Botros is an academic and member of the NDP Policy Secretariat. This is the second of a series of three viewpoints on Egyptian politics in the aftermath of the 2010 parliamentary elections.

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