Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Elusive consensus

The heads of 20 political parties are in the process of forging a national electoral list, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, chairman of the Wafd Party, says senior officials from 20 political parties have agreed to form a committee to oversee the selection of parliamentary candidates from all mainstream political parties. He was speaking following a meeting at the Wafd Party headquarters on 17 January,

Wafd Party spokesman Hossam Al-Khouli told Al-Ahram Weekly that the committee will be headed by the leftist politician and chairman of the Lawyers Syndicate, Sameh Ashour; and include the chairman of the Karama Party, Mohamed Sami; deputy chairman of the Congress Party, Amin Radi; chairman of the Nation’s Future Party, Mohamed Badran; and Egyptian Social Democratic Party member Tamer Wagih.

Candidates on the “national lists”, Al-Khouli added, “will not only compete for the 120 seats reserved for party-based candidates but the 420 seats allocated to independents.”

He said that parties will not be allotted a quota of places on the lists. Rather, candidates will be chosen on the basis of their ability to win specific seats. “The main criterion for selection is that the candidate be sufficiently popular to defeat those standing on rival lists.”

The major task of the committee, says Ashour, is to identify common ground between political parties that will allow the forging of “unified national lists of parliamentary candidates.”

“We hope that by the time parliamentary elections are held in March voters will be choosing from a single national list that includes representatives from across the political spectrum, rather than selecting candidates from several competing lists,” Ashour told reporters. “We also want to see successful candidates joining forces to form a strong coalition in parliament.”

At a press conference on Saturday, Al-Badawi said, “The meetings this week should be seen as an attempt to unify secular political forces in a single electoral coalition. That secular parties join forces is essential if we are to prevent extremist groups from infiltrating parliament.

“We must do everything we can to ensure secular forces win a majority so they can stand shoulder to shoulder with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and overcome the challenges facing Egypt.”

The Salafist party Nour Party was not invited to the meeting.

“While we appreciate the role of the Nour Party in supporting the 30 June Revolution this was a meeting for secular forces,” said Al-Badawi. “The alliance we are proposing will comprise those who firmly believe in the principles and ideals of the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June.”

Officials from 20 political parties, currently divided across four electoral coalitions, attended Saturday’s meeting. Future meetings are planned and Al-Badawi hopes the final coalition will contain up to 25 parties and a number of well-known public figures.

Former foreign minister Amr Moussa, Mubarak-era prime minister Kamal Al-Ganzouri and the former coordinator of the anti-Mubarak Kifaya movement, Abdel-Gelil Mustafa, were invited to Saturday’s meeting.

Al-Ganzouri and Mustafa have been busy preparing separate lists of candidates for the parliamentary poll. Says Al-Khouli, “Now we want to put ideological differences and partisan conflicts aside and gather the growing number of lists into a single, secular coalition.”

Al-Badawi said Moussa attended a preliminary session but decided not to attend the main meeting on the grounds that “he is an independent figure and not a party-based official.” Al-Ganzouri and Mustafa sent representatives though Al-Badawi was hopeful they would attend a meeting planned for Tuesday.

Moussa told Al-Ahram on Sunday that he declined his invitation to attend Saturday’s meeting because, as he said, “I am not a party chairman.” He also warned that it will be “difficult, if not impossible” to forge a united list from so many different parties.

“I think efforts should instead be focused on bringing political parties with similar ideological platforms under their own electoral umbrellas,” said Moussa. “These parties should vow to uphold the new constitution, support the president, and stand firmly against terrorism and extremist groups.”

Al-Badawi argues that “a firm belief in the ideals of the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June” is “enough to bring all mainstream political parties into one electoral coalition.

“The failure of secular forces to unite,” he warns, “will split the vote and aid Islamist factions.”

 

Deep ideological differences: Saturday’s meeting was held in the wake of calls by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for political parties to forge a consensus over candidates ahead of the polls.

Al-Khouli said the Wafd Party had extended invitations to all the political leaders who attended the meetings with Al-Sisi on 12 and 13 January.

“The invitations, partly a response to Al-Sisi’s calls, are also based on a deep conviction that secular political forces must unite if they are to win a parliamentary majority and thwart attempts by Islamist forces affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood from entering parliament.”

But ideological differences could not be brushed over during Saturday’s meeting and there were heated discussions between the Democratic Current, which supports the list being drawn up by Abdel-Gelil Mustafa, and the Egyptian Front, which has allied itself with Kamal Al-Ganzouri.

“The Democratic Current and Abdel-Gelil Mustafa have announced many times that they will not join an electoral coalition containing remnants of the Mubarak regime,” Medhat Al-Zahed, deputy chairman of the Popular Current Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “And the Egyptian Front coalition contains a large number of Mubarak regime diehards.

“If the Wafd Party’s intention in issuing these invitations is to try and secure a majority offering Al-Sisi unquestioning support in parliament then it is an initiative we reject,” Al-Zahed said. “Al-Ganzouri is a Mubarak-era politician and he should not be playing any role in forming lists of candidates.

“We are against the return of both Mubarak and Muslim Brotherhood era politicians to parliamentary life.”

Ahmed Al-Fadalli, chairman of the Democratic Peace Party, who attended the Saturday meeting on behalf of Al-Ganzouri and the Egyptian Front coalition, accuses the Democratic Current of adopting “an extremist Western agenda.”

“We support Al-Ganzouri but are open to negotiations aimed at creating a single, national list,” says Al-Fadalli.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by tycoon Naguib Sawiris, refused to attend the Saturday meeting and has declared its support for Al-Ganzouri’s list.

Sources say the Saturday meeting also broached who should become speaker of the House of Representatives.

Interim president Adli Mansour, who is the current chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), emerged as the preferred candidate of the Wafd and Reform and Development Parties. The Congress party, however, supports Amr Moussa.

Leftist forces objected to Mansour on the grounds that he is a former government official and argued in favour of an independent opposition figure, putting forward the name of Abdel-Gelil Mustafa.

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