Sunday’s papers: Internal fissures dog opposition parties while authorities ease sugar import measures

State-owned Egyptian newspapers lead Sunday's coverage with news of president Hosni Mubarak's speech to a joint parliamentary session.

State owned Al-Akhbar runs the headline: "Mubarak figures out the characteristics of the next phase of the national agenda." The paper, however, fails to offer detailed information on the content of the speech.

State-owned Al-Ahram chooses to link Sunday's speech with the upcoming ruling National Democratic party (NDP) conference, scheduled for Saturday.

The paper quotes NDP Secretary-general Safwat al-Sherif as saying 2011 will host a consummate adoption of the party's parliamentary electoral program that claimed more than 80 percent of seats in the newly-installed People's Assembly.

The ruling party's program aims to create 5 million jobs with total expenditures at LE200 billion.

The opposition claimed only 16 seats, roughly 3.5 percent, in 2010, in sharp contrast to the 25 percent representation in the previous parliament. Oppositions groups that boycotted the poll's run-off vote in 2010 say the election was rigged.

Privately-owned newspapers, in turn, direct focus on Sunday to the shadow parliament, an idea suggested by various opposition groups to contest the legitimacy of the NDP-controlled parliament.

Last week former MPs, including independents and opposition party members, protested outside the State Council Court in Cairo to reiterate calls for the establishment of a "parallel parliament" or a "popular parliament" to shadow the recently-elected People's Assembly.

Privately-owned Al-Shorouk quotes from a statement by the National Association for Change (NAC) that suggests opposition groups haven't settled yet on the formation or structure of the "parallel" or "popular parliament."

The NAC is headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief and a possible presidential candidate in 2011.

The statement added, according to the paper, that the NAC "has discussed the positive and negative aspects of establishing a popular parliament," but hasn't adopted a stance towards it. The NAC is still investigating the issue, the statement says.

State-run Rose al-Youssef covers recent internal crises within Egypt's political parties following abysmal performances in the latest poll.

Members of the liberal Wafd party won six seats, identical to its representation in the 2005-2010 parliament. The party, however, said it has no parliamentary representatives in the People's Assembly. All Wafd members who emerged victorious in their electoral battles defied party leadership by disregarding a boycott directive. The left-wing Tagammu won five seats, as opposed to only one in the last parliament.

The banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood (MB) won only one seat, down from 88.

The Ghad (tomorrow), Geel (generation), Adalah (social justice), and Salam (peace) parties, won one seat each.

Rose al-Youssef says three legal opposition parties, Nasserist, Wafd and Tagammu are facing deep internal pressure.

The nationalistic Nasserist party is close to be politically frozen, according to the paper, after the clashes that erupted between Sameh Ashour, the first deputy of the party chairman, and Ahmed Hassan, the party's secretary-general.

Both Ashour and Hassan accused each other of treason and issued orders to cancel each other's party membership after Tagammu candidates failed to garner a single seat in the latest poll.

Hassan, appointed by president Mubarak, is a member in the Shura Council (parliament's upper house).

As for the leftist Tagammu party, 26 of its local leaders in eight governorates called for a vote of no confidence against the party chairman, Refaat al-Said, who insisted on not boycotting the elections.

In the liberal Wafd party, a controversial committee began interrogating party members who refused to adhere to the party decision to boycott.

In other news, Sunday's papers touch on the decision made by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), in which it exempted banks from a 50 percent cash cover requirement on sugar imports for a period of six months.

State-owned Al-Ahram says the move should stimulate imports and help tackle commodity inflation.

In a statement on Saturday, the Central Bank, according to Al-Ahram said it "decided to allow banks to exempt the import of sugar from the minimum cash cover ratio, currently at 50 percent, leaving banks the freedom to determine the percentage of the cover, and with no minimum, for a period of six months."

Sugar and meat were the primary causes of hiked inflation for most of 2010, due to supply shortages.

The bank lowered its sugar import cash cover requirement from 100 percent in June, then exempted meat and poultry importers from holding cash to cover such purchases.

Egypt's inflation rate accelerated to 8.58 percent in 2010 up to November, registering its highest rate in 19 months.

Al-Ahram quotes Ahmed al-Rakaibi, chairman of the Holding Company for Food Industries, as saying the decision enables companies to acquire more sugar on the international market.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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