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Government and NDP Day
Published in Almasry Alyoum on 02 - 05 - 2009

The Egyptian government has got used to following the saying "better safe than sorry". Otherwise, it would not have taken it five years to amend the Law 100 of 1993, although this amendment was one of the promises of President Mubarak's electoral platform and the Government was committed to implementing it.
It should be remembered that this law was made in less than three days in total disregard of the violent objections warning of its negative effects.
Some government members at the time noticed that the Muslim Brotherhood (a banned group) had a plan to try and win the majority of seats in the boards of directors of professional syndicates based on the fact that its members represented an organized minority with a common will.
After all, this plan could be carried out in just one single day (election-day) by voting for the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] list or for those candidates sympathizing with this group. All this would take place while the other members, who were basically not interested in working in syndicates, would simply not take part in the elections.
On that day, votes would have to be distributed among MB candidates, thus making it sure that they would win the majority of the seats in those boards of directors.
This way, such unions would become branches of the MB and would use their great potentials to help MB members and win more supporters.
To prevent this, government advisers decided to tailor a law on this very issue, a law binding union members to participate in the elections and choose their boards of directors.
The Law No. 100 of 1993 was therefore drawn up to standardize the electoral systems in all syndicates and to devote an additional special meeting of their general assemblies to hold the elections.
The quorum was raised to half the members entitled to attend the general assembly plus one.
No difference was made between syndicates with no more than 3,000 or 4,000 members, such as the Syndicate of Journalists, and those with more than 100,000 members, such as the Bar Association.
The goal was to make the organized minority drown in the deluge of the silent majority, so that it would lose any chance to affect the results of these elections.
This way, no more syndicate would be handed out to the MB.
At the time, we warned that this law would confuse syndicates, and that the high quorum required by the law on election day would create difficulties that might prevent the very assemblies.
We also warned about holding one extraordinary general assembly exclusively to elect the board of directors. As for the regular assembly, it is supposed to be held each year to discuss the report of the syndicate board of directors, to judge its performance, to adopt the following year's budget and the final account of the previous 12 months, and to discuss the conditions of the profession.
People said that merging these two kinds of general assemblies would mean putting an end to regular ones, as the only reason why members would attend such kind of meetings was the elections themselves.
This is what actually happened in more than a syndicate, including the one of Journalists, which has not held its regular general assembly since this happy law was introduced.
At the tine, we warned that making this organized and unified minority drown in the silent majority would not bring democracy to syndicates. The choices of the majority – not concerned or informed, by the way, about trade unions and their work – would not be less evil or wrong than those of the organized minority.
We said the MB and other non-legitimized trends were seeking to take over the leadership of syndicates and turn them into parties basically due to the restrictions on the freedom to form parties and to take part in partisan activities.
We also said that encouraging everyone to take part in partisan activities and spurring them to develop their ideas in line with the needs of a democratic civil state was the way to stop this mixture among institutions.
Instead, this mixture has eventually turned syndicates – and sometimes mosques and churches, too – into parties and parties into cafeterias and schools to interpret dreams.
Syndicates defend the professional and economic interests of their members and they cannot carry out partisan activities or be involved in controversies among parties. Very simply, their members belong to all parties, so they do not have one single political opinion. Indeed, all they are supposed to have in common is such economic and professional interests.
12 years after enforcing the law, the government found that a significant number of syndicates had actually stopped working, either because they had entered a tunnel of guardianship or because they were unable to reach the quorum at the elections.
President Mubarak promised to amend the law and the government pledged to implement this promise.
After five years, the Professionals Secretariat of the National Democratic Party (NDP) will meet on Monday to discuss the bill amending Law 100 of 1993 and reducing the quorum.
When I asked one of the party's leading figures why it had taken so long to amend the law, he said to me: "Well, the government day is once every year, but the NDP day is once every five years."

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