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Viewing cable 09CAIRO1148, AMENDMENT ON WOMEN'S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO1148 2009-06-22 10:10 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO5595
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #1148/01 1731034
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 221034Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2901
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 001148 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR NEA/ELA AND DRL/IRF 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM KWMN PHUM SOCI EG
SUBJECT: AMENDMENT ON WOMEN'S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND 
DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT REF: A. CAIRO 0044 B. 08 CAIRO 2310 Classified By: Economic-Political Minister Counselor William R Stewart for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.Key Points: -- (U) On June 15 the parliament approved an amendment to the People's Assembly Law (1972) to allot 64 new seats for women representatives. -- (C) The ruling National Democratic Party sees the amendment as a critical step in empowering women politically. Others view the amendment as window dressing. The Muslim Brotherhood, along with other independents in parliament, has called the measure unconstitutional and a "farce." -- (C) The passage of the amendment led to rumors that parliament would be dissolved and new elections called before the next November session. Contradictory public comments from prominent NDP leaders have fueled those rumors. Our assessment is that dissolution is not imminent.

2.(U) The new amendment to the People's Assembly Law of 1972 stipulates a quota for women's participation in the Peoples Assembly (PA) for a period of 10 years (two legislative cycles). The amendment does not replace previous Presidential Decrees which call for the appointment of 10 women to the PA after each election cycle. Nor does it prohibit women from running for any open seat in the PA. The amendment would add a total of 64 additional seats, bringing the total members of the People's Assembly to 508 (not including the 10 appointed women representatives). The amendment stipulates that these new women members must be elected, not appointed, and their election must follow other electoral criteria, like requiring that half of the representatives be from farming, industrial or other "blue collar" backgrounds. These 64 would represent 32 "new" constituencies, based on the 28 governorates with two representatives per constituency. Larger governorates with more than 4.5m residents will get one (or more) of the four extra constituencies (or eight representatives). --------------------------- NDP Sees Progress for Women ---------------------------

3.(C) In the media, National Democratic Party (NDP) members praised the law. Amal Othman, a woman, a National Democratic Party (NDP) MP and head of the Constitutional and Legislative Committee, called the amendment a "victory for women." Hossam Badrawi, Shura Council Member, member of the influential NDP Policies Committee and NDP Secretary for the Business Sector, called the passage of the amendment a hard won victory for "affirmative action." Badrawi, an advocate for the law, said that there had been real "cultural" objections from MPs, but that President Mubarak pushed for its passage. The amendment was publically linked to Mubarak's pledge during the 2005 presidential elections to encourage women to play a more active role in politics. (Note: There are now only three elected women MPs in parliament and five presidential appointees. End Note.) Badrawi also noted that the new constituencies were very large and that fielding candidates able to carry the constituency will be difficult. He acknowledged that the NDP's capacity to field candidates put it at an advantage but said he opposed those within the party who want to use the measure solely to increase NDP numbers in the PA, calling it a violation of the spirit of the law. Badrawi thought women candidates would likely gravitate to the NDP, even if their previous political affiliations lay elsewhere, in order to benefit from the party's ability to get them elected. He explained that the two term limitation had its origins in general sensitivities about making these kinds of targets permanent, citing the constitutional requirement that fifty percent of all MPs represent "blue collar" Egyptians as being too restrictive and not an effective way of ensuring the best candidates are put forward. ----------------------------------- MB and Others See Business as Usual -----------------------------------

4.(U) Muslim Brotherhood "independent" MP's voted against the amendment and according press reports, Dr. Mohammed Saad Katatni, head of the MB bloc in Parliament, and also a member of the MB's Guidance Council, denied the necessity of such a measure saying that no one in the ruling party or the opposition rejects a the "right of women's participation in CAIRO 00001148 002 OF 003 the Parliament." He claimed the real reasons for lack of political participation by women were the restrictions placed by the government on all potential candidates and he called for "real reform." (Note: The MB has to date fielded only 2 female candidates. End Note.) Immediately following its passage, First Deputy of the MB, Dr. Mohammed Habib, called the quota a "farce" and said that the GOE's sole motivation was to "appease the West." Habib was later quoted as saying that the MB will field candidates for the new seats.

5.(C) Public comment from independent MPs was also negative. Many were concerned that a quota was not the optimum way to achieve women's participation and simply created more seats for the NDP to fill. We understand that Independent MP Gamal Zahran submitted a motion to introduce an amendment to the Political Parties Law (1977) mandating that 10 percent of the candidates nominated by all parties be women. The motion failed in light of the NDP-sanctioned amendment to the People's Assembly law. ---------------------------------- Dissolution of Parliament Unlikely ----------------------------------

6.(C) Media reports of conflicting comments from NDP leaders like Moufid Shehab, who urged political parties to prepare for elections at "any time" after having been quoted by earlier media reports assuring there would be no dissolution, have continued to fuel rumors that a decision from Mubarak to dissolve the Parliament is imminent. In response to ECPO Minister Counselor, member of the NDP Policies Committee and Gamal Mubarak confidante, Mohammed Kamal referred to his own public statements denying any plan to dissolve parliament between sessions (Note: The current session of the People's Assembly ended officially on June 15 and the Shura Council on June 18. The new session is scheduled to start in November. End Note.) Kamal suggested that electoral logistics would make an early election difficult for any party. Like Hossam Badrawi, Kamal added finding new women candidates would not be easy and would be complicated by the large constituencies the amendment sets out. He also noted that action before the NDP convention in November 2009 was unlikely. Kamal said he believed the rumors were fueled by a lack of journalistic standards. He also pointed out that historically, although Mubarak has the constitutional right to dissolve the Parliament and has done so twice, in 1987 and in 1990, he has never done so without a decision from the Constitutional Court to provide necessary political cover.

7.(C) Hossam Badrawi also refuted rumors of dissolution, saying it would be "difficult to happen without me being part of it." Badrawi did acknowledge that having both People's Assembly and Shura Council elections in 2010 would be a "challenge." Badrawi also explained that internal party elections would happen in July/August, in preparation for the November NDP convention, and that these internal elections would result in an internal turn over of candidates of about thirty to forty percent. This internal process had been expected in May and was delayed, according to Badrawi, due to the complexity of injecting new blood while acknowledging those NDP members in the parliament that had done good work for the party. Dr. Osama El-Ghazali Harb, former NDP Policies Committee Member, now President of the Democratic Front Party and a member of the Shura Council, rejected the notion of dissolution as unlikely. Harb called the amendment a positive step forward and said it was long overdue. He noted that Egypt had led the region, with the first women MPs elected to Parliament in 1957, but that sadly little had changed in over fifty years. --------------------------------------------- - NDP Meeting to Select a Presidential Candidate --------------------------------------------- -

8.(C) Rumors have surfaced in the last two weeks, in the press and from the Prime Minister's office, that a high level meeting is in the works within the NDP to agree on the party candidate for the presidential elections in 2011, with the expectation that Gamal Mubarak, the President's son, will receive that nomination. Mohamed Kamal also refuted those rumors as "pure fabrication" and said that NDP Secretary General Safwat Al-Sherif had already appeared on a satellite TV news program to deny that any selection would be taking place. Hossam Badrawi also refuted the rumors saying it was simply untrue. ------- Comment ------- CAIRO 00001148 003 OF 003

9.(C) NDP insiders Mohamed Kamal and Hossam Badrawi both believe dissolution is unlikely and we are inclined to believe them. That Mubarak has never dissolved Parliament without a mandate from the Court is also persuasive. The fact does remain that Egypt's president would be within his constitutional rights to call for dissolution and that there could be some interest within the NDP, for logistical and political reasons, to separate the upcoming PA elections from the Shura Council elections (both slated for 2010) as well as the presidential elections in 2011. (Note: In the last round, the parliamentary elections were two years apart, the PA in 2005 and the Shura Council in 2007. The last presidential election was held in September 2005. End Note.) The new amendment could provide some political cover for such a decision under the logic that new MPs need to be installed as soon as possible.

10.(C) Others tell us that these rumors, both dissolution and Gamal Mubarak's selection as the NDP presidential candidate, may also reflect debate between the "old guard" and the "new guard" within the NDP, with members of the new guard pushing for generational change and taking the dispute in their own way to the public. Alternate theories include an attempt to keep the country, and in particular NDP cadres, "on their toes" in the run-up to the elections. Others note that many of these NDP insiders may simply not know, and are being kept out of a tightly held decision. The wealth of opinion noted here is an indicator of both the real lack of transparency observers regularly face and a sense that change may be coming. SCOBEY