The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies CIHRS organized a symposium on “The Significance of Shura Council Elections” on June 26th 2007, with the participation of Counselor Ahmed Mekky, Vice President of the Court of Cassation, Mr. Hussein Abdel Razek, Secretary General of the Tagamu’ Party, Mr. Essam Shihah, member of the Supreme Board of the Wafd Party, Dr. Magdi Abdel Hamid, Chairman of the Egyptian Association for the Promotion of Societal Participation, and Dr. Mohammed al-Beltagui, Secretary General of the Muslim Brothers (MB) Parliamentary Bloc. Mr. Moataz al-Foujiri, CIHRS Program Officer, steered the symposium.
Counselor Ahmed Mekki launched a shrewd attack on what he deemed as “rigging” witnessed in the Shura Council elections. He sarcastically mentioned that the recent elections were a case in point that rigging has become a government doctrine, whereas rigging took place even in those constituencies where no other candidates competed with National Democratic Party (NDP) candidates. He confirmed that the NDP is striving to hold elections without voters, and warned against what he described as government impetuous rush in the adverse direction against the people’s interests. He also indicated that this course followed by government is quite hazardous because it weakens Egyptian youth affiliation with their country.
Mr. Mekki called upon opposition parties to end their provocative rhetoric against government, and mentioned that judges are in favor of a dialogue with government and that they even requested such dialogue. He also criticized the growing means of financial and administrative siege that government imposes on the Judges Club to prevent it from performing the services it is rendering to member judges.
Mr. Hussein Abdel Razeq defended his nomination in the recent Shura Council elections on behalf of his party, though he was perfectly conscious in anticipation that the NDP intended to rig the elections in favor of its candidates, by virtue of the latest constitutional amendments, which prohibited judicial supervision of elections. He maintained that the Tagamu’ Party adopted the principle of participation to publicly disclose election rigging instead of simply pulling out.
Abdel Razeq wondered whether both the Wafd and Nasserite Parties, which have boycotted the elections, would follow the same track in any upcoming national elections or not?
Though Abdel Razeq was quite sympathetic toward what he described as “the huge obstacles” that government had imposed against MB candidates in Shura Council elections, he held the group responsible for spreading the rumor that the Tagamu’ candidate in Alexandria won his seat by forgery. Abdel Razeq argued that the MB launched this rumor on their websites, and propagated propagandistic claims on a widespread scope. Abdel Razeq strongly disavowed the validity of such claims, and called for rallying democratic parties and opposition groups with the purpose of working together to set the “dull” political street in motion and put pressure to bear to prevent further deterioration and recession in Egypt.
Mr. Essam Shiha, member of the Wafd Party Supreme Board, criticized oppression exercised by government bodies on the competencies of the Supreme Election Committee, and pointed out to the practices of the ruling party candidates, represented in violations and excesses. He mentioned that such practices lead to citizens’ distrust in elections and aggravate their retrogression from participation therein. Shiha accused the NDP of lacking any intention of reform, and added that setting up committees with the Shura Council revealed that reform claims are actually resisted inside the party itself.
Shiha agreed with Dr. Mohamed al-Beltagui, member of the MB Parliamentary bloc that the Shura Council elections were a “mini-rehearsal” and a scenario prone to be repeated in any upcoming public elections. Al-Beltagui asserted that the recent Shura Council elections had serious repercussions on political life in Egypt, which entails a threat to internal national security. He also warned that NDP practices are intentionally driving society toward violence.
Al-Beltagui described the huge discrepancy in votes in favor of NDP candidates as “a charade” disclosing flagrant rigging that represents a disgrace in the ruling party record. Al-Beltagui called upon the NDP to respond to rational claims, put dialogue into gear, and raise the genuine will of voters beyond any external interventions.
Dr. Magdi Abdel Hamid mentioned that government announced, through its practices, that it does not need the public in any interactive reform process, thus led to the loss of trust in the democratic process and opened the door for two main ideas: civil disobedience or popular revolt and a return to militancy against government. The latter closed all doors before political actors participation in decision-making regarding critical issues in the country. He also indicated that government has retrograded tremendously in fulfilling pledges of democratic change, and criticized government inimical attitude vis-à-vis local election supervisors and members of civil society organizations. He called for international supervision of elections, which is a common practice in different countries of the world.
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