CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak urged political reformists to announce their agendas to the public, asserting that there is no room for “mixing reform ideas with chaos.”
“I am telling those who raise slogans that this is not enough to attract voters,” he said during a belated Labor Day speech Thursday at the Cairo International Conference Center, acknowledging that the recent wave of political movements is a “healthy phenomenon.”
Commenting on his words, general coordinator of the Kefaya Movement for Change Abdel-Halim Qandil told Daily News Egypt, “Egyptians are taking to the streets by force not by choice. The constitution is like a traffic law forcing you to go in one direction.
“I’m asking the president to step down,” he added. “Chaos will prevail if the government continues to carry on with its policies the way it is doing now.”
In recent years, Egypt has seen a wave of protests by political activists from across the spectrum calling for democratic reform and an end to emergency law.
In his speech, Mubarak asked these groups to outline their policies with regards to attracting foreign investors, creating job opportunities, increasing wages, fighting terrorism and foreign relations.
“This is naïve and laughable. My question for him is where does public money go?” said Qandil, adding that constitutional amendments have repeatedly crippled opposition blocs.
Meanwhile, Mubarak said that the current government will continue to adhere to political reform and notions of democracy.
“We will carry on with our policies of political reform taking gradual and calculated steps,” he said, adding that the government will continue to support the role of parliament, value judicial independence and maintain a distance between religion and politics.
“The upcoming elections will be free and fair, and the people are going to be the judge,” said Mubarak, referring to parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 2010 and 2011, respectively.
“We’ve heard this for the past 30 years. Now when we hear ‘fair and free elections’ we know that it will be like any other year,” Qandil said.
“This is a government that relies on an intimidating security stronghold,” he added.
Throughout his speech, Mubarak was interrupted by sporadic applause and words of appreciation, with some attendees even reciting poetry.
The 82-year-old arrived in Cairo this week from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh where he was convalescing after gallbladder surgery and a removing a growth on his small intestine in Hiedelberg, Germany last March.
On the economic front, Mubarak, who is entering the last year of his fifth consecutive term, lauded the progress his government has achieved during the past five years.
“We have continued to raise wages year after year… Egypt has gained international recognition as one of the world’s emerging economies. Our goal is to truly develop the workers and not to seek temporary solutions,” Mubarak told the crowd.
He emphasized the fact that it is essential for economic prosperity to reach all strata of society.
“Economic growth and social justice remain at the heart of our policies,” he said.
On Thursday, Mubarak called on companies to protect the rights of their employees, and stressed that an evaluation of figures must mirror inflation rates and higher standards of living.
He pledged to raise wages, pensions and invite foreign investors who he promised “will create millions of jobs.”
On a weekly basis, workers have bunked outside the Parliament in downtown Cairo, protesting low wages and poor working conditions.
In a country where the money is circulating amply among the rich and the poor struggle to bring food to the table, Egypt’s economic system has been repeatedly criticized for its inability to maintain a fair distribution of wealth.
Qandil warned of a “spontaneous social explosion that will be unmanageable.”