Why postpone Parliamentary elections? [1]

March 15, 2011

The parliamentary elections are currently, tentatively, set to take place in June.  i.e. in 2 and a half months’ time. This is not enough time for new parties to structure themselves and old parties to restructure themselves.

Why?

To answer that question, we need to know what is a political party and what it means to run for elections.

1.     The political system in Egypt is one that uses a multiparty political system. This means the competition between more than two political parties with different ideologies and political program. There are currently 24 political parties in Egypt.

2.     A political party is a political institution that seeks to influence government policy and agenda. It does so by trying to have party members win the majority in parliament.

3.     Winning the majority in parliament means winning the majority of votes in different governorates across the country. This means the political party needs to have branches, not just in Cairo, but in a sufficient number of other governorates to guarantee winning a majority.

4.     In order to effectively participate in elections and in order to win a majority, a party needs to launch a political campaign. In most countries, political campaign of established political parties usually take from several months to several years. [N.B. this applies to parties that are already existent and not parties that are still under construction]

5.     A political Campaign means convincingly spreading the party’s agenda to as much people as possible. Popular tools used include: seminars, open discussion, tv shows, radio shows, live debates between different party members, internet, hardcopies of agenda…etc.

6. A political agenda reflect the party’s priorities and the strategies they envision to dealing with those prioritized issues. [E.g. National issues: unemployment, taxes, illteracy and educacy, women’s rights, irrigation and Nile issues, investing in solar power, investing in nuclear power, promoting tourism; Regional Issus: Palestinian situation, Libya, Burundi and the Nile covenant; International Issues: globalization and its cultural effect, stronger international role.]

There isn’t enough time for new political parties to establish a popular base that will allow them to compete. How so?

1.     Not enough time to formulate effective political party structure.

Party constitution, party executive committee, party legislative committee, party judiciary committee. In addition to specialized committees (education committee, health committee, foreign affairs committee….etc).

2.     Not enough time to formulate political agenda.

It took a constitutional committee of 8 people 2 weeks to revise 7 articles. And its taking 21 days or 3 weeks (26th Feb-19th March) for public discussion of amendments, which people are rightly arguing isn’t enough time i.e. more than a month. How long will it take to for a political party draw up an effective plan to deal with complex national issues? To ask a budding political party to create an effective program to answer local, regional and international issues in two months is to ask them to formulate a hasty shoddy program.

3.     Not enough time to reach consensus on party leaders and party agenda in party headquarters as well as across party branches in Egypt’s 29 governorates.

Party elections, party voting.

4.     Not enough time to raise necessary funding for political campaign.

Effective campaigning is a multi-million trade (buying air time, flyers, ads,setting up live debates, traveling across governorates…etc) . Raising funds necessarily comes after a political agenda is established for investors to know what they’re funding. Even harder under current economic situation.

 

5.     Not enough time to apply political campaign & recruit party members.

Equal access to all parties means equal time on air, during similar air times. If only 6 new political parties are created, we have a total of 30. (for example, if they would have similar airing times on the one channel 4 to 6 pm everyday, then that’s 30 days – a day for each party). Campaign touring across governorates to establish a base and interact with potential constituency. Numerous interactive debates, both on tv and live. Radio shows, tv shows, ads, flyers.

6.     Not enough time to recruit supporters and train them as volunteers.

Typically a party’s campaign tries to win over supporters and recruit as much of them as possible as agents of campaign propagation. This requires that the candidates be well aware and well versed in the details of electoral laws and procedures. Thus, particularly in a country that is new political activism, ensuring right understanding via training is crucial.

If we say that the average time taken for a speedy implementation of each point is a month, that’s 6 months. But according to the tentatively set schedule, we only have 2 months. Why rush?

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