Speculations on the future of Egypt next year in today’s local press

Taking stock of the year’s government’s achievements was the focus of state-run newspapers. For one, Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif gave an interview to Al-Akhbar whereby he explained how 2009 witnessed the completion of all promises pledged by President Hosni Mubarak during his electoral campaign. Nazif said that although the year was marred with a series of economic challenges, the government managed to implement Mubarak’s electoral program as manifested in job creation, food subsidies and social security schemes.

Al-Gomhuriya’s Editor in Chief Muhammad Ali Ibrahim’s editorial boasts that throughout the year only the ruling National Democratic Party present ed a vision for the future to the people of Egypt, unlike opposition parties. With the parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall of next year, Ibrahim asserted that people are endorsing the NDP in reaction to the consistent failed vision of the opposition. In a common discourse denouncing the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim wrote that the MB is luring the  opposition under its tutelage in a quest to turn the nation’s priorities to Islamization rather than welfare.

The opposition press presented an alternative narrative to that of the success of the ruling party and regime in summoning people’s support. Al-Wafd cited the swine flu fiasco in Egypt as a government failure, with the World Health Organization declaring Egypt on top of African countries in terms of H1N1 diffusion and mortality. According to Al-Wafd, such failure, alongside others, pave the way for the shattering of the alleged succession project, whereby Mubarak is thought to be plotting to pass on his throne to his son Gamal.

Similarly, Al-Youm Al-Sabea ran a story about a secret survey put forward by Ahmad Ezz, a member of parliament and prominent figure in the NDP’s Policies’ Secretariat. In this survey, which Ezz designed with other experts within the party, he tried to compare the popularity of NDP MPs with their counterparts from the opposition. The paper, which attributed its sources to party insiders wrote the results were rather “embarrassing”, with the Muslim Brotherhood receiving 70 percent of respondents’ support in terms of popularity and 80 percent of respondents not tangibly feeling the services offered by the ruling party.

In the same context of political speculations for Egypt in the coming year, Al-Shorouk ran a page with the headline, “Ahmad Ezz is the man of the coming year.” In this page, Samar al-Gamal presented several scenarios for the political future of the steel mogul and NDP politician. One of them is his nomination to the post of minister or even prime minister. A second scenario would be his nomination as head of the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament. A third possibility, which al-Gamal reckoned would be the most likely, is Ezz’s nomination as the NDP’s secretary general. Those scenarios follow Ezz’s extensive powers, which have reached ministries, the parliament establishment and the different committees within the ruling party.

In Al-Dostour, Chief Editor Ibrahim Issa gave a rather ominous speculation on the political reforms front for next year. According to him, even if a constitutional change takes place under Mubarak’s rule, it will never diminish the powers he has been accumulating throughout the past 29 years, including the imposition of his son Gamal to the public sphere.  “How can we expect such ideal scenario with a police state monopolizing powers and intending to pass on the throne from father to son. How can such a regime respond to popular demand, leave the stage for independent and national figures to work on constitutional reform, accept the drafting of the constitution away from its manipulation and agree to a free referendum, not marred with fraud and corruption, to pass this new constitution?”

In a more holistic look at 2010, Nabil Abdul Fattah wrote in Al-Ahram an editorial built on a series of questions pertaining to Egypt’s political and social future. He asked whether there is still a chance for Egypt to retain its regional centrality, whether its people can move the process of political reform forward, at the basis of which lies a deeper process of social and educational reform. His questions extended to a series of contentions in Egypt, from the politics of patriarchy, to mounting religious fanaticism, to failing public health policies, all of which need one to step back and think. Abdul Fattah wrote that those questions need to be raised continuously and tackled pensively by Egyptians.


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