Saturday, March 27, 2010

EGYPT: Civil Society Sidelined Ahead of Elections

By Cam McGrath

"CAIRO, Mar 26, 2010 (IPS) - Egypt's ruling party is taking measures to restrict the work of non-governmental organisations ahead of crucial parliamentary elections.

"The future is very dark for us," says Nasser Amin, director of the Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP). "The government will do anything to win the upcoming elections...and it will take aggressive action against anyone who participates, or monitors them.".....

A strong majority in parliament would help the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) secure its candidate in the presidential race, says Amin. "The government wants a secure legislative bloc so it can make constitutional changes before the presidential election."....

The Egyptian government may have a few more tricks up its sleeves. In 2004 it established the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) to monitor and report on human rights. Critics say the council, whose 27 members are handpicked by the President, is window-dressing designed to gloss over human rights abuses and drown out criticism from independent rights groups.

The ruling party appears to be preparing several more of these government- operated non-governmental organisations, or 'GONGOs', to create the illusion of independent electoral oversight......."

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