Observers invited to NDP conference

Islam Online reports that, for the first time, foreign observers from human rights groups, academia and elsewhere have been invited to the forthcoming National Democratic Party conference. This suggest they want to make a big show of it, showcasing the new Nazif government and Egypt's commitment to reform. It also dicusses some of the "limited reforms" expected there, including:


"Amendments to the party law would allow opposition figures to join the parties' affairs committee, usually controlled by the NDP and the government, for allowing the opposition to give vote on the committee's decision on establishing a new political party," the sources said.


On the syndicates law amendments, the sources said such amendments would include the cancellation of articles of on imposing syndicate sequestration, holding the syndicates elections at fixed times and the provision to have the vote of two thirds of the syndicate general assembly members to have the elections valid.


Concerning the elections law, the sources said the amendments would stipulate that the Administrative Court is the only body assigned to give opinion on challenges raised against the elections' results and widening the scope of judicial supervision on all elections committees, placing sanctions for any elections' violations and forming a neutral body to monitor the candidates' spending on the electoral propaganda.


For the emergency law, the amendments would stipulate confining the law to only terror cases.


This may be positive news, but it still falls short of expectation. In particular, there needs to be a clear statement that any political party can be formed -- it won't matter if there are opposition members on board if there are still too few to change the vote on a new party. As for electoral reform, I seem to recall that the Supreme Constitutional Court was the body that ruled that the past three elections had been illegal (and therefore that parliament was not valid), not the Administrative Court which has a more limited mandate. (Update: I was alerted in the comments that it was indeed the Administrative court that declared elections illegal. I should have doublechecked rather than rely on my spotty memory.) I'm also skeptical about respecting spending limits -- no one does this, even the candidates who support the limits (which during the last election were set at a paltry LE10,000, or at the time about $3000. As for the emergency law, it is already meant to be restricted to terror and drug-dealing cases -- so no big change there. The problem is more about how it is abused.

Still, potentially an interesting conference.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.