Al-Ahram Weekly Online   27 October - 2 November 2005
Issue No. 766
Egypt
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

In the run up to the 2005 parliamentary elections, Al-Ahram Weekly will be surveying the nation's political scene. This week Mona El-Nahhas explores the Ghad Party, interviews its parliamentary list and interviews its leader

Attacked from all sides

Ghad Party leader Ayman Nour spoke about the turmoil surrounding his party, and how it might affect its performance in the coming polls

Candidates aplenty

One Ghad too many


Although only a year old, the Ghad Party has been attacked from every possible side. What has the effect been on the party's strength and popularity?

Generally speaking, political parties that identify themselves as alternatives to the regime, usually find themselves embroiled in endless fights with the state. And since the regime is not used to the emergence of a strong entity like the Ghad, they decided that they had to get rid of it. First, they fabricated a case against the party leader, but -- contrary to their expectations -- that only increased the party's strength and popularity. From then on, the attacks have not stopped, though none have managed to destroy us. The Ghad Party's success in last month's presidential elections offered clear evidence of our superiority and strength. Annoyed by these election results, the regime chose to attack again, this time using their agents [within the party] to destroy it.

How will the recent split in the party's ranks affect its chances in the coming parliamentary polls?

Let me first say that the party's internal problem was very much exaggerated. The aim was to give the impression that the Ghad is falling apart -- and thus reduce its chances of success in the coming polls. Internal splits were just one of the cards used by the regime to achieve this target. They also instructed their backers in the opposition front to prevent the Ghad from joining. Even the small parties were ordered to do the same. They have also used threats. Our candidates were pressured not to run. Security personnel intimidated voters in Bab Al-Sha'riya. Shop owners were prevented from hanging banners supporting me. I have also received letters threatening to kill me and harm my family if I don't keep quiet. These acts, which show desperation, only increase our determination to succeed.

What is the Ghad's parliamentary elections plan? How do you plan to compete against the NDP, the opposition front, and your own party's dissidents?

In spite of all the obstacles we are facing on a daily basis, we have nearly 200 promising candidates, who will run in two thirds of Egypt's constituencies. We don't consider NDP candidates a threat, and we have decided not to compete against opposition candidates who are honourable. As to candidates from [dissenter] Moussa's group, we have filed complaints at the prosecutor's office against their alleging to be party members.

Why didn't you coordinate with the Muslim Brotherhood group, even though analysts said their votes were one of the main reasons behind your success in last month's presidential elections?

That's an exaggeration, because a large percentage of the group's members did not vote. The Muslim Brotherhood members who did give us their votes -- the majority of whom are the group's younger generation -- were not instructed by their leaders to do so. It was their own decision to vote for the Ghad, a party addressing their generation. We also got the votes of the young Copts. As for coordination with the brotherhood, the Ghad is definitely not against the idea. But we did not take that step because it was not clear whether or not the brotherhood would be part of the opposition front.

The opposition front has asked for international monitoring of the elections. Do you think that will provide enough of a guarantee that the elections will be fair?

It may help, but it's not enough. Elections will never be fair, as long as the state supports -- with all its bodies -- the ruling National Democratic Party. Fairness, neutrality, equality and transparency will only come about if the NDP and the state are separated.

Moussa and his splinter group are calling you a dictator who should not be leading a liberal party like the Ghad...

That kind of talk is all nonsense. I have never made a decision without obtaining the party's higher committee's approval. And they know this quite well. If I were a dictator, why didn't they say this before? Did my dictatorship appear suddenly? They are just trying to justify their move, since the real reasons are clear to everybody.

How do you see the Ghad's future in light of the difficult circumstances currently surrounding it?

It's very normal for a party abiding by its principles to face endless problems, and to go through very hard times. Yet, I'm sure the Ghad will stand on its feet and overcome these crises very soon -- all of which will lend it much strength.

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