Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Seeking guarantees

A united opposition front is yet to be formed to field a candidate in the presidential poll, writes Mona El-Nahhas


Seeking guarantees
Seeking guarantees

The Solidarity for Change Front remains an idea, a would-be grouping of opposition forces which, in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election, hopes to formulate an alternative to current government policies around which a progressive alliance can coalesce. 

Discussions between proponents of a consensus opposition grouping have been taking place for weeks now. Their ambition is to field a candidate in the presidential poll.

A final draft of the front’s foundation document is expected to be issued by the end of September. A press conference will then be held to showcase the front’s programme and announce its working agenda. According to those involved in the discussions, 10 political parties and movements are expected to join beneath the umbrella, alongside independent syndicates, popular alliances and up to 500 public figures.

As news of the meetings spread some media outlets began a smear campaign, targeting potential members of the bloc and raising predictable accusations of treachery and links with terrorist groups.

Last week TV host Ahmed Moussa denounced the involvement of the 6 April and the Revolutionary Socialist movements which he described as “two terrorist groupings”. During his talk show Moussa suggested to viewers the front would seek to reconcile with the Muslim Brotherhood and reintroduce it to the political scene.

On 5 September Al-Youm Al-Sabei newspaper published what it claimed to be an early draft of the front’s yet-to-be-finalised foundation document which it attacked as “hollow”. “The document includes accusations against the current regime and state institutions for which it fails to provide any documented evidence,” railed the newspaper.

Al-Youm Al-Sabei went on to claim — falsely, it turned out — that a number of signatories had already quit the front. Amr Moussa, liberal activist Mohamed Abul-Ghar and rights lawyer Khaled Ali were among those the newspaper claimed had left. All three denied the reports, saying they had never been members in the first place, though Ali, who is the chairman of the yet-to-be-recognised Bread and Freedom Party, said he had attended “one or two meetings” with front members as an observer.

Al-Youm Al-Sabei also claimed that major splits had already divided the ranks of the nascent group.

Farid Zahran, chairman of the Social Democratic Egyptian Party, denied there were any divisions, commenting that “it’s perfectly normal for political figures to have disagreements when addressing specific issues.”

During the meetings participants were canvassed over potential presidential candidates. Some argued that to secure public support and the support of major state institutions any candidate would have to have a military background, and the name of Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik was mentioned. The majority of participants, however, rejected such arguments and insisted any candidate must embrace the spirit and principles of the 25 January Revolution.

“We will not give up or make unnecessary concessions. A candidate from the Mubarak or Morsi eras is out of the question,” said a member of one opposition party attending the meetings.

Shafik, currently residing in the United Arab Emirates, has yet to say whether or not he will stand in the elections.

Zahran denied accusations in the press that the front was seeking to rehabilitate the Muslim Brotherhood, pointing out that none of the discussion documents mentioned the issue.

No figures representing Islamist parties or with links to them have attended any of our meetings, say front sources.

Medhat Al-Zahed, acting chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, says the front’s first priority will be to push for the guarantees necessary to ensure a fair and transparent poll. “Before naming potential candidates we must first assess whether the competition will be fair,” he said.

“If we fail to win adequate guarantees we may boycott the coming presidential polls altogether.”

Asked about the front’s chances of bringing about real change, Al-Zahed said: “Our success will depend on ensuring transparency and truth prevail. We need to be vigilant that no members of the front are covertly pushed by certain state apparatuses.” 

The draft discussion document published by Al-Youm Al-Sabei described the current phase as “the worst in Egypt’s modern history” and outlines principles to which all front members should adhere. They include commitment to the civil nature of the state and to the defence of civil rights and a rejection of all forms of despotism.

The document also argued the absence of a clear economic vision had fuelled domestic and foreign debt and a deterioration in living conditions.

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