Front-page state-run and privately owned coverage in Tuesday's newspapers highlight the debate surrounding the National Democratic Party (NDP) decision to permit 800 party members to vie for the 508 contested seats in the impending parliamentary poll. The coverage illustrates the shock the party stirred by fielding more than one candidate for the same seat in at least 100 constituencies.
Privately-owned papers diagnose this decision as a sign of NDP institutional weakness. Al-Wafd opposition daily leads with a headline reading “An explosion within the NDP due to ‘open constituencies’,” in reference to districts where party members are set to compete against one another. The paper also alleges corruption pervaded candidacy selection. Another headline reads: ”Sixty million Egyptian Pounds is the total sum of royalties that the NDP required from candidates.”
In the same token, privately-owned Al-Dostour daily, runs this front-page headline: “Battles and splits within the NDP…And those excluded threaten to resort to President Mubarak.”
The state-owned press, however, defend the ruling party's decision. Rose-Al-Youssef daily dedicates its front page to a column by editor Abdullah Kamal, in which he explains the party move in an apologetic tone. Under the headline, "An NDP bombshell: Why the party fielded 790 candidates for 508 seats…Is the party stabbing itself with its multiple candidates”, the staunch supporter of Mubarak’s regime claims this decision attests to a well-planned strategy. “With this disciplined plurality, the party accommodated all social forces which can influence the elections and the party especially in rural districts where family and tribal ties are present,” he writes.
And Kamal is not the party's lone media defense. State-run Al-Gomhorriya editor Mohamed Ali Ibrahim takes a similar position in his column. He hails the party’s decision as a sign of democracy. “The party found out that some of his candidates got similar results in the primaries. If the party had favored one candidate over the other, it would have been a sign of dictatorship…This [decision] is an example of ultimate democracy,” he writes.
Aside from the parliamentary elections, the state-owned press also highlights the opening ceremony of the Shura Council. Papers emphasize statements made by the council’s president Safwat al-Sherif, who chose to tackle recent al-Qaeda threats directed at the Coptic Church. “Egypt’s Muslims and Christians are determined to maintain the nation’s peace,” Al-Akhbar newspaper quotes al-Sherif on its front-page.
In the same thread, Al-Gomhorriya quotes al-Sherif praising the government. “The government has achieved all the goals of President’s Mubarak electoral program successfully,” in reference to Mubarak’s 2005 campaign pledges. At the same time, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif made his own promises, vowing to attract investments worth US$10 billion annually to increase job opportunities, according to Al-Gomhorriya.
Privately-owned Al-Shorouk daily dedicates a full page to an investigation on lawsuits filed by independent lawyers against the government for misappropriating public property. The paper highlights three cases that are set for examination by the Administrative Court today. The first case is about the appropriation of 966 square kilometers in the eastern suburbs of Cairo to Palm Hills company, where the incumbent housing minister holds stock. The second case is about the Madinaty suburb which drew much media attention in September after the court nullified the contract signed between the government and owning company Talaat Mostafa Group.
The court on Tuesday is going to look into a new suit requesting enforcement of the verdict.
As for the third case, Saudi Noble Al-Waleed Ibn Talaal was given 100,000 feddans in the western desert in 1997 to establish an agricultural project. The plaintiff asks for the nullification of the contract which he dismisses as “unprecedentedly perverted” since it grants the Saudi tycoon privileges that pertain to the payment and the infrastructural services the government is obliged to provide.
Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt
Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size
Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run
Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat
Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned
Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned
Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party
Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party
Youm7: Weekly, privately owned
Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned