A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The NDP Conference: Not Much to Say

I haven't written anything about the big weekend conference of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party, which finally wrapped up yesterday. I'm still at something of a loss. Did anything happen? Since I have way better things to do than read or watch several days of rhetoric about development and progress, like most people I mostly wanted to know what the President and Gamal had to say. Mostly, not much. The President is still unwilling to tip his hand about succession. Gamal and key allies like Ahmad ‘Izz gave speeches denouncing the opposition for criticizing the NDP. I've only watched short clips of Gamal's speech, but it seems to confirm that as a stump politician, he's a good banker. This is no Nasser. (Or even Sadat, who had once been an actor in his youth.)

Actually, perhaps the quintessential headline is this one from Al-Masry al-Youm's English pages: Privatization, Agriculture Discussed at NDP Conference. (If you click the link and read the story, do post a comment to tell me what it was about. I fell asleep at the headline.) In other words, if you were expecting the Conference to shed light on the succession — well, by now you should have known better. Still, international Arab and Western media were watching, just in case.

On the other hand, if this was some sort of dry run for Gamal to show his leadership skills, I'm not sure he convinced anyone, perhaps including the one man who really does have the vote. The attacks on the opposition suggest not so much that the opposition is powerful — the state has it carefully tamed and circumscribed — as that the ruling party has thin skins. The various trial balloons for alternatives — ‘Omar Suleiman, Muhammad ElBaradei, ‘Amr Musa — in recent weeks may be an indicator that a lot of people in the Establishment are uncomfortable with Gamal's inexperience and lack of charisma too. The next two years (or less?) will be interesting.

No comments: