Watch it slip

That momentum for reform, that is:
CAIRO: Egypt’s consultative council yesterday approved the two-year postponement of municipal polls that had been due within two months, in a move slammed by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

The Shura council, the country’s upper chamber of parliament, approved a proposal by President Hosni Mubarak that the elections be delayed by two years and the mandate of the current municipal elections extended.

“The postponement was necessary to draft a new law on municipal administration which would conform to the constitutional amendment proposed by President Mubarak in his programme,” said Shura speaker and ruling National Democratic Party Secretary General Safwat el-Sherif.

The mandate of Egypt’s municipal officials was due to expire on April 15 and elections were to have been organised within a two-month period before that date.

The postponement has still to go through the NDP-dominated lower chamber, or People’s Assembly, in the coming days before taking effect.
The move has been condemned by all of the opposition, but it doesn't matter. The municipal elections could have been the test to see whether the Muslim Brotherhood would continue its advance, or whether other parties could make inroads, or indeed whether the regime would interfere with as heavy a hand as it did in November and December parliamentary elections. But instead, full speed ahead with fake reforms!

Update: Here's what the Ikhwan has to say about it:

By enacting this bill, the government is aiming to provide the ruling National Democratic Party with sufficient time to rearrange itself in preparation for the elections. Currently, the NDP is undergoing restructuring to be able to face its strongest rival, the Muslim Brotherhood, which outperformed it in the parliamentary vote. In fact, the Brotherhood picked up 88 seats despite the coercive government measures applied in both second and third rounds of ballots leaving 27 deaths.

The government proposed to put off the elections two years, instead of one, to focus on the elections of Shorah Council in the middle of the next year. For it would be difficult to both security and judiciary bodies to monitor two elections at the same time.
Update 2: Good of Michael Slackman of the NYT to have picked this up. He has more detail than I've seen in the Arabic press! This what is being used to justify the move:

Mr. Mubarak's allies in the upper house of Parliament and in his party said the planned postponement was, in fact, a step toward greater democracy because it would allow time to put in place a new law for greater decentralization.



"According to the current constitution, the local governments have no power and depend fully on the central government," said Muhammad Kamal, a leading member of the governing party's secretariat and a member of the upper house. "The concept is to move local councils more toward becoming local governments, rather than local administration. We want to empower decentralization."
'ashan shatrak...
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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.