Monday, December 13, 2010
Ines Bel Aiba
Agence France Presse
CAIRO: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Sunday bemoaned the opposition boycott of this year’s legislative elections, saying he would have preferred all parties to have done as well as possible.
“I am happy, as party leader, at the success of our candidates,” he said, referring to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which secured 420 of 508 parliamentary seats in the polls held on November 28 and December 5.
“But as president of Egypt I would have preferred that the other parties [opposition] had obtained their best results,” Mubarak told NPD MPs in a speech broadcast on state television.
The powerful opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which won a fifth of seats in Parliament at the 2005 election, picked up no seats at all this year after alleging there had been widespread fraud in the first round and boycotted the second leg.
Independents garnered 70 seats while the opposition trailed far behind with 14 seats, six going to the liberal Wafd party, which also announced a boycott of the second round.
“I would have preferred the [opposition parties] not to have wasted their efforts in arguing for a boycott of the elections, then taking part, then some later announcing a withdrawal and questioning the results of the election,” Mubarak said.
“I urge the NDP and the other parties to the examine closely the lessons of these elections, the positives and the negatives, and to support pluralism,” the president said, adding that the “large majority gained by the NPD also brings … an enormous responsibility.”
Meanwhile, media reports Sunday said Mubarak had named seven Copts from Egypt’s minority Christian community among 10 MPs he appointed to the new Parliament.
The president Saturday issued a decree, in line with the Constitution, to appoint 10 more lawmakers, including seven Copts and a woman, for a total of 518 seats in parliament, the reports said.
Protesters rallied in downtown Cairo Sunday to denounce the election results.
Riot police penned in about 200 demonstrators outside the Supreme Court as the protesters repeatedly chanted that the elections were “null.”
“This is not our Parliament. Down with the illegitimate Parliament,” said a placard held by a demonstrator.
Protest organizer George Ishak said that dissidents intended to challenge the legitimacy of the new Parliament.
Analysts have said the results off the poll have damaged the credibility of the NPD but has allowed the party to tighten its grip on parliament ahead of the 2011 presidential poll.
It is widely believed within Egypt that the 82-year-old incumbent president, who has ruled for 29 years, wants to pass on the baton to his 47-year-old son Gamal Mubarak, a banker who has been pushing for liberal economic reforms.
British daily The Guardian citing WikiLeaks reported however that Mubarak is likely to seek re-election next year and serve for the rest of his life.
The disclosure came in a secret US diplomatic cable from Washington’s ambassador to Cairo, Margaret Scobey, which was released by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, the newspaper reported late Thursday.
“Scobey’s candid view … is that Mubarak … is most likely to die in office rather than step down voluntarily or be replaced in a plausible democratic vote,” The Guardian reported.
The cable says: “The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2011, and if Mubarak is still alive it is likely he will run again, and, inevitably, win.”
One prominent commentator, Amr al-Shobaki of the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, has said the new Parliament “was tailor-made” to play with the ruling party’s plans for the presidential poll.
Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei warned Wednesday activists could resort to violence unless political reforms are made, as he called for a boycott of next year’s presidential election and dismissed the legislative polls as a “farce.”