Gamal Mubarak, the 2005 elections, and the Mufti on QIZs

Gamal Mubarak is quoted in the December 25 Al Hayat as saying that the Fall parliamentary elections would be "important and decisive." He said they would be "different" and added that "it is unimaginable to conduct the new elections in an air of suspicion as happened during the past elections."

The Gamal quotes in Al Hayat came from a meeting with 400 agricultural union leaders in the Delta governorate of Daqahliya. The December 25 Al Misry Al Yom has a related article quoting assorted analysts describing the young Mubarak's recent tour of the Egyptian countryside as "propaganda and self promotion, especially given the uncertainty of the succession issue."

One parliament member, Adel Eid, (I'm assuming he's opposition but it doesn't say in the article) said, "The decrease in Gamal Mubarak's support among the grassroots of the Egyptian people pushed him to convene these meetings with different segments of Egyptian society, like students, youth, workers, and peasants. This is after he has presented himself to foreign circles, especially America, to guarantee popular support and the support of the west when he steps forward to be President of the Republic."

Abu Alaa Al Maadi, the outspoken head of the new Al Wasat Party has some good quotes in the article to the same effect, basically that Gamal Mubarak has realized that his coterie of intellectuals and businessmen does not necessarily translate into popular support. As a result he has begun directing his attentions to the peasants and the workers.

It is stated as a given by some of those interviewed in the article that Gamal's support is waning. I'm wondering is Gamal really losing support among the Egyptian masses? Did he ever really have that support in the first place? And does he even need that support? (Where's Stacher when you need him?)

Meanwhile, the leftist Tegammu Party, whose leader Rafaat Al Said came under fire recently after he met with the American Ambassador David Welch, announced that it is prepared to compete in the coming parliamentary elections. However the Tegammu party warned that it is still considering how to deal with the presidential referendum. It will either vote against Hosni Mubarak, or will boycott the presidential referendum all together in protest against the single candidate referendum.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim has announced that his Ibn Khaldun Center will be monitoring the 2005 parliamentary and presidential elections. Recall that many say that his monitoring and subsequent criticism of the 1995 and 2000 elections was the primary cause for his differences with the regime that ultimately led to a series of trials and retrials and his spending the better part of three years in jail.

A spokesperson for the Egyptian cabinet said on December 23 that the new political laws go to Parliament next month. The new laws will include the formation of a high committee for elections in order to ensure that they are fair and transparent, and the abolishing of prison sentences for journalists. (Are we repeating reforms here? Weren't prison sentences for journalists abolished last February?)

The Mufti on QIZs: Al Masry Al Yom reported on December 24 that the Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, has declared that the QIZ agreement with Israel is simply a matter of free trade similar to any international agreement. And added that there is no need to fear trade with Israel. He stressed that the QIZs are good for the public interests of Egypt. And pointed out that Muslims traded with the Jews during the time of the Prophet.