The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Saadawi's platform

As Issandr mentioned a few days ago, Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi has announced herself as a candidate for the 2005 presidential elections. Here's her platform. It seems pretty reasonable.

The aim she wishes to attain in presenting herself as a candidate for the presidency is not to become President. The constitution of Egypt has been formulated in such a way as to make it impossible to be a candidate unless he or she obtains two thirds of the parliamentary vote before taking this step.
Instead her aim is to play a role in strengthening the movement of people aimed at achieving a real democtratic change in the present system. Her electoral program is founded on broad based intellectual, political, economic and cultural themes and can be summarized under the following points:

1 - The educational system should be founded on free discussion, on breaking down the barriers and destroying the shackles which surround the mind, on a continuous encouragement of creative work in every field. It should seek to link the different streams of thought, to connect the private with the public to develop a capacity for understanding the reality of society, its problems and how to solve them. It should aim at bridging the gap between fields of knowledge, restore the connection between art and science, between law, the social sciences, history, philosophy, medicine and literature, between internal and international affairs, between the local and the global. The creation of critical free thought is the basis of progress in the sciences, in the arts and in all areas of life.

2 - The ideological outlook of the ruling system must be changed to become decentralized and collective in its essence, and undergo continued renewal. It should not be based on a pyramidal, rigid structuring with an individual leader, enthroned at the top, a leader who is never wrong, and cannot be brought to account, he is almost sacred.
With greater power there should be greater accountability and not the opposite. The law of Immunity should be abolished so that all authorities including the highest are held responsible for their actions and are subjected to supervision and democratic control, whether it be the head of state , or the head of Al Azhar, or a minister, or a member of parliament, or the president of an institution or any other responsible person.
All authorities should be subject to the same laws including the law which permits an examination of the sources from which their money or their properties have been drawn.
Systems built on appointment rather than election to responsible office especially to the legislature (Parliament) to juridical institutions and to the executive governmental bodies must be abolished. This should include the post of Sheikh Al Azhar, heads of university departments, deans, rectors, directors and presidents in colleges and universities, professors in the academic institutions, chairpersons of national councils in different areas including those dealing with human rights, women etc.

3 - Laws and legislation which permits discrimination against citizens on the basis of religion, gender, class, race, party or family affiliation should be abolished.
Candidature to elections for all posts in the state apparatus including that of the President must be open to all men and women without exception, to ensure that they are occupied by those who are the best fitted for them and not by those who wield the most power and influence.
Laws which are promulgated must be free of all religious affiliation including personal and family laws. They should become a part of civil legislation, built on justice and equality between men and women, between husbands and wives, and between fathers and mothers.
All children should enjoy the same personal and public rights and none of them is to be discriminated against because born inside or outside wedlock.
The rights of women and children are universal human rights and should not be violated under any pretext related to national or religious identity or local tradition or cultural relativism or other.

4 - All laws restricting the exercise of freedom of thought, expression of opinion, organization and political and social action are to be abolished.
This includes martial law, and all financial or other restrictions to the establishment of newspapers, magazines, film companies, radio stations, and television channels, as well as other cultural or informational institutions and organizations.
Financial or other restrictions to the establishment of political parties, trade unions, cooperatives, associations in civil society active in the social and cultural fields should also be abolished.

5 - It is necessary to ensure the independent development of the national economy , its freedom from subjugation by the neo colonial alliance between the United States, Europe, and Israel to encourage and promote industrial and agricultural production instead of financial speculation, to build an economy which caters to the needs of our people and not to those of the multinationals and therefore geared to export.
We need an agrarian reform, a ceiling to land ownership, the reduction of agricultural rents, a return to cooperatives in agricultural activities and in small or middle industrial and trading establishments. Taxes should be levied on the richer sectors of the population rather than the poor and those who earn a fixed income, corruption should be fought starting with the higher levels of society and black marketers , and luxury importation should be abolished.
The systems of social security and insurance are to be ministered and controlled by its beneficiaries under a separate independent administration to prevent its funds from being plundered by government administrations and utilized for other purposes.

6 - It is vital to build up solidarity and cooperation with the world people's movement against war, corporate capitalist exploitation and globalization, neo colonial plunder and aggression from the United States, Europe and Israel.
Efforts should be made to develop new and more creative ways of people's resistance to these forces at the local, Arab, and international levels, to free ourselves from the shackles of economic, political, military, cultural and mediatic hegemony exercised by the most rich and powerful corporations, to reinforce cooperation with the people of Palestine and Iraq in their struggle against foreign occupation and aggression, as well as with the other Arab people`s in order to overcome the plunder of our resources , in water, oil, and the treasures of our cultural heritage.

The six points mentioned above are the foundations of Nawal El Saadwi's electoral program. They are broad lines which illustrate the way in which she envisages the most important aspects of reform in society , but need further concrete and detailed development . Her main aim however in formulating this preliminary program is to open up a political and intellectual debate and discussion in a situation characterized by political stagnation , rigidity and decay, where people have been driven to apathy and loss of hope.
The constitution of Egypt as it is now stands an obstacle to free Presidential election since no one can be a candidate without the prior approval of two thirds of a Parliament largely hand picked and controlled by the ruling National Democratic Party, to which 90 % of the members of the parliament belong.
There are candidates who are waiting until a constitutional change takes place. They do not wish to waste time and effort in what is to them a battle destined to be lost. But Nawal El Saadawi does not think in these terms. To her all creative endeavours are worth whatever efforts go into them. To her creativity is an aim in itself because through it our lives are changed.