Egyptian businessmen made a strong showing in the last parliamentary elections and should make an even greater impact in the next. No longer new to the political foray, several businessmen are planning to run. Nominating entrepreneur candidates dates back to 1995 when the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) put at least a dozen businessmen on its list.
Their presence in the assembly has proved a boon in moving Egypt to a market economy. One obstacle that may face them is the recent uproar against businessmen who have been fleeing the country after their involvement in shady financial practices. Analysts say this would cast some doubt on the credibility of the business community.
“Some parties may be reluctant to put a businessman on their list. It's more likely that businessmen are going to run as independents," a political analyst told Al Ahram newspaper. The opposition Wafd 's list of candidates is likely to include prominent businessmen who are long-time party members.
Despite the tarnished image of the business community, NDP sources said they would still put some magnates on their list in keeping with the shift to a market economy and also because they represent an important segment of the political community that cannot be ignored.
The last elections were heavily biased against both women and the Coptic community. Now they too have promised to make a much stronger showing. For many, the inclusion of Coptic figures on the NDP's list is simply a matter of "correcting past mistakes." In the 1990 and 1995 elections, the NDP's list did not include a single Copt, a matter which disappointed many in political circles.
For some other political parties, nominating Copts has historical roots. The liberal Wafd is one party that makes a point of having a significant Coptic representation. In 1995, the Wafd had almost 50 candidates on its list. But Wafdist Coptic candidates insist that despite their religious affiliations they are contesting the elections as Egyptians.
"When I address my constituents, I do not confine myself to Coptic concerns. I do not say that since I am a Copt, all Copts have to vote for me," Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, a prominent businessman who is
running in Cairo's Wayli district for the Wafd, told the newspaper.
The under-representation of women in parliament also appears set to change. Although Egyptian women won the right to vote in 1956, many political parties still question the wisdom of nominating women
candidates to run against men given the social attitudes that are sometimes antagonistic to women's political activism.
In an attempt to encourage women to be politically active, the National Council for Women (NCW), chaired by Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, has decided to fully back all women candidates. The council, in the words of Zeinab Radwan, one member, is urging women to participate more actively in politics and particularly to register as voters as an initial step towards their political empowerment.
In the 1995 elections, the NDP nominated only 15 women; the Wafd nominated five, the Islamist-oriented Labour three and the Nasserist party none. The highest level of women's representation in parliament
was 6.6 per cent following the 1987 elections. This was made possible by a law, later quashed by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which reserved 32 Assembly seats for women. – (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )