Egypt's ruling party, accused in the past of ignoring minorities and women, says it will field at least two Coptic Christians and eight women candidates in the legislative elections next month.
According to Mayo, the newspaper of the National Democratic Party (NDP), President Hosni Mubarak, who heads the party, has ratified 444 candidates for the elections on 18 October and 8 November. The paper published names of 57 nominees and said the complete list would be published next week.
The NDP, in power for more than two decades, dominates politics in Egypt so influentially that its list of candidates determines to a great extent who will sit in parliament. It controls 97 percent of the 454-member body.
The current parliament, elected in 1995, has no Copts and only five women members. Responding to criticism after failing to field any women or Christians for the vote, Mubarak, who has the right to appoint 10 members, appointed six Copts and four women.
Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 65 million people, the majority of whom are Muslim.
In the meantime, Egyptian business owners are expected to make a strong showing in the parliamentary elections.
The nomination of entrepreneur candidates began in 1995 when the ruling party put at least a dozen business people on its list. Their presence in the assembly has proved a boon in moving Egypt forward to a market economy.
One obstacle that may face them is the recent uproar against those who have been fleeing the country after their involvement in shady financial practices.
Egyptian business owners fear 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 business people who are long-time party members.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )