Re-amending Article 76 on the Apparent and Hidden Levels
Saturday, November 11,2006 00:00
By Hassan Naf’aa, Al-Masrey Al-Yawm

On the occasion of holding the new parliamentary term, President Mubarak seized the opportunity of meeting with the members of the parliamentary body of the ruling party to declare agreeing on amending article 76 that was amended in less than a year. This was a big surprise. It was a pleasant surprise for some and unpleasant for others. Those who think positively of the National Democratic Party, who are few I think, considered it a pleasant surprise. They thought it is a kind of implied admission of fault; and perhaps a desire to follow the truth, which is a virtue anyway. As for those, whom I think are the great majority of the citizens, who think passively of that party and are always suspicious about its intentions, they considered that re-amending an article in the constitution in less than a year in itself is playing with it lightly as if it is a normal law or a bylaw that is easy to be amended whenever modes and minds and change. This happens without any guarantee that the amendment will be for the better.
 I confess that I personally was not surprised with such announcement for a simple reason that is I was very sure the NDP started to realize the reality of the impasse the first amendment led to. NDP started to look for a way out. It is known that legal experts of the NDP, for undeclared goal, distinguished between the conditions related to the 2005 presidency elections candidates and the conditions of the candidates of the coming one. While they were lenient with authorized parties, most of which are inactive as known, to be able to offer candidates to stand for 2005 elections without any obstacle, they were tough when it came to the coming elections and limited the right of candidacy to the parties that will get 5% of the seats of People’s Assembly.
As a result of the fact that the NDP is the only party that got this result in the recent People Assembly elections, the regime started facing a critical situation of a new kind, I think I was the first one referring to. In one of the interviews with a satellite channel directly after the recent legislative elections, I pointed out that if presidential elections were run before 2011, only the NDP could stand for it, consequently we would resort to the old referendum system in a false electoral look. In that context, the reasons that led President Mubarak to change his attitude, i.e. refusing re-amending article 76 that he previously considered a redline not to be overstepped under no circumstances, became understandable.
 I think NDP changed attitude can be interpreted as a desire to achieve two goals:
 Firstly reason is reducing the existing congestion in the Egyptian political life, through appearing as a good listener to people’s talks and as a one responding to opposition’s demands of the necessity of re-amending article 76. Second reason, and may be the more important one, is that the president finally became convinced that the amendment took place became a political levity that will not help passing the authority smoothly after him. If Gamal Mubarak showed interest in standing for elections under the existing text, his victory would look like a farce in a process that is closer to a referendum not to real elections. This will challenge the credibility of the elections as false like the whole existing regime. By then the predominant impression will be that the republican system turned into a royal one through a dangerous and unstudied cesarean operation that will surely lead to a certain death.
 At this point, an important question is raised: Will the NDP accept re-amending article 76 in a way that allows a real democratic relief that opens a way for the country to get out of its current political crisis? I think that any self-respected observer can not expect the NDP to take serious step that aims at making a real democratic relief that opens a way for the country to get out of its current political crisis, as long as there are possibilities of naming G. Mubarak as a candidate in the next elections. The mere existence of this possibility in itself forms a pressing tool that forces the legal experts in the NDP to creatively put all obstacles in front of any possible powerful competitor to G. Mubarak.
 It is obvious that the coming elections will not be credible at all except by two conditions; Firstly, G. Mubarak must commit himself to his previous promise that he will not accept candidacy for any coming presidential elections (To be decisive, it is better that he declares from now on that he is completely leaving public life). Secondly, opportunity should be given to independents and not-yet authorized parties to freely stand for presidency. As I’m sure that G. Mubarak will not leave the public political life and that he, most likely, will be the candidate of the NDP in the next elections, so at least it will be necessary to provide a minimum limit of equal opportunities among candidates. It is difficult to imagine the possibility of providing this limit of equal opportunities without enabling independents, whatever their intellectual and political stances are, of freely standing for presidential elections.
 Authorized political parties in Egypt now represent a very little percentage of the political elite. Additionally, limiting the right of candidacy for presidency to members of leading bodies in the officially authorized parties limits choice opportunities to unacceptable limits and surely turns the presidency elections into a formal process whose results are known in advance.
 Herein, I hope that I do not get misunderstood, or that someone thinks that I speak evil of the efficiency of the existing parties, as it is certain that these parties are crowded with persons who are able to compete with and even win over G. Mubarak himself in any presidential elections where fairness and transparency guarantees are provided. But limiting the candidacy to only authorized parties, and not parties that are not authorized yet or political groups that belongs to no party is not politically, legally or ethically justified. It confiscates a basic right of people to choose whom they see as qualified to occupy the most critical position in their political system. It is clear that the NDP tries to make us believe that the reason of tightening the grip around the independents is the fear of Muslim Brothers, but this excuse is invalid and can not deceive anybody for many reasons. Every one knows that the MB is a group that has enough political understanding and maturity to be convinced that the circumstances are not suitable to stand for presidency. Everyone knows that the Egyptian people now have sufficient political maturity and understanding to be convinced that Egypt in a bad need for an independent person able to unite all political trends, including the MB, around him to get over this suffocative crisis that threatens the ship of the whole nation to sink.
 NDP realizes well that the real competitor to G. Mubarak in any coming fair presidential elections can not be but an independent person that is not belonging to MB even does not belong to all existing official parties and not the existing ones. Putting obstacles in front of such persons is the real goal of the NDP’s last maneuver. All NDP’s attempts to use MB as one who inspires fears domestically and internationally were exposed to the extent that no one, domestically or internationally, became deceived by.
 The confession itself of the NDP that it needs to re-amend the already amended article 76 implicitly suggests doubt to legitimacy of the previous presidential elections that brought President Mubarak to presidency. In the same time NDP appears to run in disorder neither knowing its goal nor putting public interest into consideration when dealing with legal matters.
 As there are many doubts concerning the intentions of NDP, not among which the real political reform, so the most likely is that it treat the mistake it made in the previous amendment with a bigger mistake in the next one. That is to say that as NDP declares its approval to re-amend the already amended article 76 implicitly admits that it made a constitutional mistake that can be called a sin. In the same time NDP fails to convince others of its sincere intention to correct that mistake. If this deduction proved true, the last maneuver may help the ruling party get out of hole but definitely it will not safeguard it from falling into a big and deeper hole ready for it. The proverb goes "Be patient with a liar till the end".
As for us, we do not see any a real escape of the current situation except G. Mubarak completely leaving public life, as this is the only way stops domestic opportunists and foreign plans. Can G. Mubarak do his country this great favor?