Egyptian Liberals Unite to Test Muslim Brotherhood at Polls

Egyptian liberals Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa have met in a bid to form an alliance that can take on the ruling Muslim Brotherhood at the polls — and to keep the new constitution from being controlled by the Islamic movement. Ahmad Mustafa reports for Al-Hayat.  

al-monitor Mohamed ElBaradei (3rd L) launches his new party named "Dustour" (Constitution) during a news conference in Cairo on April 28, 2012.  Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

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muslim brotherhood, muslim, elbaradei, constituent assembly, amr moussa, al-azhar

Sep 26, 2012

The founder of the Constitution Party, Mohamed ElBaradei, met yesterday [Tuesday] evening with the head of the Egyptian Nation Alliance, a group that consists of liberal figure Amr Moussa and ex-presidential candidate and founder of the Popular Current, Hamdeen Sabahi.

The meeting discussed the formation of an electoral alliance to enter parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to take place after the referendum on the constitution, with common lists of candidates.

This confidential meeting could be decisive in forming a front that brings together liberal and leftist forces to stand for parliamentary elections against the Islamic movement. It was reported that the meeting was one part in a series of meetings that liberals intend to hold in order to develop a common vision of the draft constitution, which they claim the Islamic movement is seeking to monopolize.

A leader of the Constitutional Party, Georges Ishaq, told Al-Hayat that the meeting will be closed to everyone, adding that ElBaradei “refused to disclose the purpose of the meeting and rejected the participation of any party member.”

In contrast, the acting president of the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, Essam Al-Erian, said his party hasn’t started to consult with others to form an electoral alliance, stressing that “all possibilities are being examined.”

Erian explained that “the parties’ committees are currently examining the best version of the electoral law, which the party will present when meeting with the other political parties.

“There is a committee that is examining the way to choose party candidates and others are preparing the electoral program, before these works are submitted for approval to the party' s executive committee,” he added.

[Tuesday, Sept. 25], Dr. Ahmad Tayeb, the grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, sought to defuse disputes that endanger the success of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution by meeting separately with representatives of both liberal forces and Islamic movements.

Tayeb met with representatives of liberal forces from the Constituent Assembly [Sept. 25] morning and then met with members of the Islamic movement. After the meeting, while each side accused the other of being responsible for “holding the Constituent Assembly hostage,” the two sides stressed the need to agree on the new constitution.

In a statement [Tuesday], Tayeb said the meetings tackled “problematic issues and [we] came to agreements on many of them.”

Tayeb will continue to hold meetings with the national forces to reach a consensus in order to finalize the drafting of the constitution and for the supreme national interest.

After he met with Tayeb, Constituent Assembly member Ayman Nour said he would withdraw his resignation.

Addressing assembly members, Nour said: “We will keep on working to the last minute, but if we find out that some parties want to hijack the constitution drafting process, we will leave our seats. We are not threatening or intimidating anyone, but we will not accept if the process is hijacked. Some provisions must be adopted after a consensus and I call [on] the assembly members to reach a consensus, particularly over the major provisions. Today, I am more reassured than before.”

However, drafting committee head and Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammed Mahsoub, who is also a member of the Islamic Al-Wasat Party, downplayed the differences and said: “Some people do not want to listen or discuss a point of view that contradicts their opinion. They just want to listen to themselves or to those who adopt their view.”

He added: “Some people are hoping that the Constituent Assembly only reflects their view and that their opponents do not present any opposing opinions. In this way they claim to reach a consensus.”

Mahsoub continued that “Article 2 [stating that Islamic law will be the prime source of legislation] will remain intact and Al-Azhar is not a reference,” also pledging that “rights and freedoms will not be restricted, but rather regulated by the law.”

The committee’s chairman, Hossam el-Gharyani, warned of “a fierce attack on the Constituent Assembly.”

Gharyani said in a session [Tuesday] that “nobody is writing a constitution for himself,” calling on assembly members to “include what they agreed upon, disregard the points that they disagree on and respect what the list has stipulated regarding the adoption of the constitution.”

He added: “Instead of fighting, we need to debate in a democratic way.”

Gharyani proposed to not use a vote on the constitution’s articles to pass controversial articles with a majority of votes from the Islamic movement.

He noted that “Egypt was regulated under several constitutions, each with their advantages and disadvantages, before the youth started a revolution to achieve change,” adding: “What we agree upon here will be included in the constitution and what we disagree on will be postponed until the future generation can find a way to amend it.

“The constitution will include some provisions that can be amended in the future when the people agree on the modified version that will be added.”

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