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EGYPT - The Opposition.

There are about 15 legally approved political parties in the tolerated opposition. The main ones are the New Wafd, the Socialist Action Party, the Socialist Liberal Party, the National Progressive Unionist Grouping and the Democratic Nasserist Party. This opposition poses no danger to Mubarak's regime.

The banned opposition, however, can be potentially dangerous and cause the regime great harm. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the main opposition to the regime, has been on the defensive since 9/11. The government has pursued a relentless crackdown on the MB (see background in Vol. 58, DT No. 4).

The Ruling Party: Headed by President Mubarak, the NDP controls all aspects of the political system in Egypt. It has been the ruling party since its establishment by Sadat in 1978. The five big opposition parties which are legal - the New Wafd, the Socialist Action Party, the Socialist Liberal Party, the National Progressive Unionist Grouping and the Umma Party - are on the sidelines.

Having a large majority in the People's Assembly and most seats in the Consultative Council, or Shura, the NDP controls local governments, the mass media (although opposition groups have their own publications), the labour unions which have been organised by the regime, and public sector enterprises. The NDP has a definitive say in whether or not new political parties are allowed to be formed, whether or not news publications are launched, and whether or not private groupings that could have political aspirations are created.

Over the past nine years, the NDP has been working to break the MB's hold on professional associations, including the unions of doctors, lawyers and engineers. As such, the NDP is an all pervasive entity, in many ways similar to the ruling Baath Party in Syria.

However, the NDP is more flexible than the ruling structure in Syria. The Egyptian regime is more tolerant of criticism by opposition groups and by individuals, as long as this focuses on policy rather than on personal attacks against the president or other top officials.

The NDP leadership has neglected internal reforms. It has failed to introduce new politicians adapting to the modern times and able to convince the citizens of the government's credibility. Millionaires joining the NDP usually fund the party's electoral campaigns and win seats, be that in parliament, in prestigious associations or in chambers of commerce and industry. In return, they expect the regime to act in their favour.
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Publication:APS Review Downstream Trends
Date:Jan 26, 2004
Previous Article:EGYPT - The Ruling Structure.
Next Article:EGYPT - The Presidency.

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