Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Back to boycott politics

Will the NSF’s decision to boycott elections allow the Muslim Brotherhood to tighten its control of Egypt, asks Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to proceed with parliamentary elections without first addressing the concerns of the non-Islamist opposition triggered a furious reaction from the National Salvation Front (NSF), a coalition including liberal, leftist and nationalist forces.
On Tuesday the NSF announced it would boycott the poll, arguing that the new election law rammed through the Islamist-dominated Shura Council last week failed to fully encompass the rulings of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) on the original draft let alone guarantee that the ballot would be free and fair.
According to former secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa, “a politically neutral government should be appointed to take charge of overseeing the upcoming elections.”
“The polls must also be held under full judicial supervision and international monitoring and secured by the Armed Forces.”
NSF Chairman Mohamed Al-Baradei announced that “the front has decided to boycott the election to expose Egypt’s sham democracy.”
On 23 February he wrote on Twitter: “In 2010 — under the regime of Hosni Mubarak — I issued a call for boycotting the election because it was the fastest way to expose this type of sham democracy. I said no to the elections of the People’s Assembly in 2010 and I repeat it again more forcefully this year. We can never be part of these political deceptions. It is as if the former regime was not toppled.”
On the same day Al-Baradei told foreign ambassadors “the boycott will extend to nominations and voting alike”. He charged that “Morsi’s call for parliamentary polls shows a degree of irresponsibility and kills any hope for a fruitful dialogue with him.”
On 21 February, hours after amendments to the two election laws were rubber-stamped by the Shura Council, Morsi called for four-stage parliamentary elections. They were initially scheduled to begin on 27 April and end on 27 June. The dates were then changed, with the poll brought forward to start on 22 April and end on 24 June after members of Egypt’s Coptic community pointed out that the original schedule would involve voting on Easter.
Wahid Abdel-Meguid, an Al-Ahram political analyst and NSF official, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “Islamists — mostly affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood — used their majority on the Shura Council to tailor the election law to their needs.”
“They had no interest in reaching a consensus with other political forces. The upcoming polls, just like the ballot held under Mubarak in 2010, will not reflect the true will of the people. They only give a veneer of democracy to a regime which has lost legitimacy.”
The Wafd, Egypt’s oldest political party, will join the boycott. Its chairman, Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being determined to monopolise power. “Islamists granted legislative powers to the Shura Council with the objective of imposing their political hegemony on Egypt,” he said, adding that the Wafd’s lawyers believe “the new election law could easily be ruled unconstitutional because it failed to comply with the requirements of the SCC.”
The Tagammu Party was the first to boycott the polls. Chairman Rifaat Al-Said urged Egyptians not to vote “to expose the authoritarian policies of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group”.
Amr Hamzawy, an independent MP in the 2012 People’s Assembly, said he had decided not to contest a seat.
Ahmed Maher, founder of the 6 April Movement, warned that “unless it comes as part of a national campaign the boycott could be a gift to the Muslim Brotherhood as it seeks to monopolise political life.”
Islamist political parties welcomed Morsi’s twin calls for parliamentary polls and national dialogue. The Nour, the largest Salafist party, announced on 25 February that it would be taking part. Mahmoud Abdel-Hamid, a senior Nour official in Alexandria, said the party “decided to join the elections in order not to give the Muslim Brotherhood the chance to tighten their control of Egypt”.
“The Nour will do its best to ensure that the upcoming ballot is marked by integrity. It will have candidates everywhere in Egypt.”
The Watan, a newly-licensed political party representing more radical Salafis, also welcomed Morsi’s call for elections. Mohamed Nour, the Watan’s official spokesman, said “Morsi’s call for elections and national dialogue is a step towards realising Egypt’s aspirations for democracy.”
Muslim Brotherhood officials accused secular forces of being frightened to be judged at the ballot box. Essam Al-Erian, Shura Council spokesman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), warned that those opting for a boycott “will face political isolation for decades to come”.
Mohamed Zidan, FJP spokesman, described the NSF’s boycott calls as “political bankruptcy”.
“Opposition forces calling for a boycott believe there is no way they can assume power through ballot boxes but only through sit-ins, strikes and extreme polarisation.”
Some secular political parties refused to heed the NSF’s boycott calls. Ghad Al-Thawra, a liberal-oriented party led by Ayman Nour, announced that he would join the race. So did Anwar Al-Sadat’s Reform and Development Party. More significantly, remnants of Mubarak’s now-defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) seemed content to dance to the Brotherhood’s tune, announcing they too would stand. The SCC gave the green light for many NDP officials to run when it judged that the Islamist promoted constitution only barred NDP MPs who were members of the last two pre-revolution parliaments — rather than just one of them — from standing in elections.
In a televised national dialogue session on Tuesday Morsi met with representatives of several political forces — those that appear to be emerging as the “official” opposition — to discuss guarantees for the integrity of the polls. The session was boycotted by the NSF as well as Egypt’s Coptic, Catholic and Anglican churches. Even with such limited attendance the session was a fiasco. Morsi’s adviser, Pakinam Al-Sharkawi, refused to discuss any changes to the current government or to electoral districts that the Brotherhood is accused of gerrymandering.
“We cannot discuss these matters without first consulting legal experts,” said Al-Sharkawi. The flat refusal led to Younis Makhioun, chairman of the Nour Party, and Mohamed Mohieddin, representative of the Ghad Al-Thawra, refusing to sign the recommendations of the national dialogue session. Younis accused the Muslim Brotherhood of imposing its control on key government portfolios (youth, information, internal trade and supplies and local administration) which could negatively affect the integrity of the election. Makhioun pointed out that the Brotherhood’s domination of key positions in many governorates compromised the integrity of the polls.
Representatives of several political forces proposed delaying the election for six months and allowing amendments to the election law to be reviewed by the SCC. Morsi refused, insisting that the Shura Council’s changes last week meant the law fully complied with the SCC’s judgements. The only thing the session appeared capable of agreeing was that private television channels were to blame for everything. Saad Al-Katatni, chairman of the FJP, accused them of spreading lies during the election season and demanded disciplinary measures “to bring them under control”.
Abul-Ezz Al-Hariri, a former leftist opposition MP, argued that “since the election law has already passed last week and was ratified by Morsi on Monday the dialogue was destined to end in deadlock.”
“Any dialogue should have taken place before the law was passed by the Shura Council,” he said. “Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are clearly not sincere about the dialogue. Nor is it insignificant that it was called days before America’s newly-appointed Secretary of State John Kerry visits Egypt. Morsi wants the dialogue simply to convey a message to the Americans that he is sincere about democratisation and therefore deserves financial help.”
But Al-Hariri warned “the boycott call could be a double-edged sword for secularists.”
“They could suffer isolation should the Muslim Brotherhood tighten its control and citizens refuse to boycott. On the other hand, the boycott could act to further expose the authoritarianism of Islamist movements and their undemocratic practices. Morsi could then become a Mubarak-style dictator to be toppled in a new revolution.”

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