Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1135, 14 - 20 February

Ahram Weekly

Vested interests?

Is the National Conscience Front no more than an attempt to dilute the opposition, asks Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

A press conference was held on Saturday at Al-Sawy Culture Wheel to announce the emergence of the National Conscience Front (NCF), a loose coalition that critics, including the National Salvation Front, say is an attempt to window-dress the regime’s policies by allies of the Muslim Brotherhood. The new front’s founders insist its only goal is to end the wave of bloodshed engulfing Egypt and to promote the goals of the 25 January Revolution.

Mohamed Mahsoub, a former minister of legal and parliamentary affairs, announced the names of the NCF members. They include diplomat Ibrahim Youssri, Wasat Party deputy leader Essam Sultan, undersecretary of Civilisation Party Hatem Azzam, Freedom and Justice Party leaders Mohamed Al-Beltagui and Helmi Al-Gazzar, professor of constitutional law Gamal Gebril, former chairman of Cairo Judges Club Zakaria Abdel-Aziz, former presidential candidate Mohamed Selim Al-Awwa and managing editor of Al-Shorouk daily newspaper Wael Kandil.

“We are not a political coalition or party,” Mahsoub told Al-Ahram Weekly. “We seek only to promote national interests and the goals of the revolution.

“We reject political polarisation. We call on everyone to respect the will of the people during this time of political conflicts.”

Speaking at the press conference, former ambassador Youssri, who was the coordinator of “No Gas Sales to the Zionist Entity” pressure group, said the NCF will confront anyone seeking Egypt’s “national suicide”.

“My only interest is to promote Egypt’s national welfare,” he told the Weekly.

“In democratic countries power revolves through the ballot box not mass demonstrations that lead to rioting, murder, thuggery and bloodshed,” he said. “I call on all patriots to listen to the voice of reason.”

“The NCF was formed in the face of intense polarisation on the political street,” Shura Council member Gebril told the Weekly, as well as in response to the poor performance of the current government.

“The front,” he argued, “expresses the conscience of the people and adopts a clear position towards whoever deviates from the aims of the revolution, whether the opposition or the regime.”

“The NCF’s founders,” political activist Hazem Abdel-Azim wrote on his Twitter account, “are the same people who forced through the constitution in the absence of any consensus. They are the same people who turn up for the Muslim Brotherhood’s so-called national dialogue.”

Abdel-Halim Kandil, editor of the independent Sawt Al-Umma, says the NCF is no more than a cartoon opposition, an attempt by the Brotherhood to promote a “reasonable” image.

The emergence of a non-partisan group seeking to mediate between political forces, says Cairo University professor of political science Hassan Nafaa, would be a positive development. But unfortunately, he adds, the NCF does not fit the bill. 

In a situation where the country is divided between two groups, each of which believes it has a monopoly on the truth, there is an urgent need for wise mediators. But, says Nafaa, they cannot be related to either camp if they are to “emerge with ideas and proposals that can help us move beyond the dangerous polarisation that now exists.

“In order for the NCF to succeed in its avowed aims two conditions must exist. The front’s members must be intellectually and organisationally independent of any parties and movements involved in the current polarisation. Its members must also present unbiased ideas that reflect their independence and actually help find a way beyond the impasse. Unfortunately, the NCF fails on both counts.”

Any alliance can claim to speak for “conscience”, Nafaa told the Weekly, but they have to ask themselves what “conscience they are talking about”. Claims that any single group somehow expresses the “national conscience” will always be spurious.

The NCF says it will form a coordinating committee within days and announce an official spokesperson.

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