Egyptian Opposition Disorganized, on Defense

Article Summary
As disputes rage on between Islamists and secular forces in Egypt, Mohammad al-Shazli comments on some of the major challenges facing opposition groups.

The National Salvation Front has been facing many challenges following the eruption of the Egyptian constitutional crisis. The front has previously employed significant efforts in order to regulate the civil forces’ framework in the face of the authorities and Islamic powers.

Meanwhile, the government and Islamist movements are operating on the same wavelength in supporting Islamist forces, and sometimes their support has been at the expense of government sovereignty itself. Some Islamists have declared that tolerance toward liberals and their revolutionary partners is not the right course, but it is the only option to move forward. They also declared that the draft constitution is less Islamic than they thought it would be. However, it remains a necessary evil in bringing about the country’s stability.

The civil forces began forming a clear and distinct bloc following their resounding defeat at the ballot box in the referendum on the constitutional amendment on March 19, 2011, not to mention the parliamentary elections in November 2011 and that of the Shura Council in February 2012, in which Islamists — the Freedom and Justice Party and al-Nour Party — won a landslide majority.

However, even though parliament was dissolved based on the Supreme Constitutional Court ruling, Mohammed Morsi — the Muslim Brotherhood candidate — won the presidential election in both stages in May and June, becoming the new president at the helm. Finally, there is also the referendum on the constitution in December 2012, where the Islamist bloc showed unwavering support for the constitution, while the front was as obstinate in the other direction.

One can say that the front that was established in September before the parliamentary elections had an early inclination toward the civil forces, which are trying to find a stronghold in the face of the Freedom and Justice Party. The party is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and enjoys the Islamist group’s support and political savvy, which it has acquired over the past 80 years.

The coalition consists of 19 civil groups and is headed by the Free Egyptians Party. One can say that the National Salvation Front came in response to the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, which was formed in the wake of the revolution and included the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party as its main group among the group’s 14 parties, not to mention the few civil parties that were just for show.

There is also the Continuous Revolution Coalition, which consists of seven parties interested in the welfare of the poor. These parties mostly belong to the socialist mainstream, which sought to provide Egyptian voters with an alternative for all these dubious alliances that that used parliamentary elections as an experiment field to test their ability to influence the Egyptian public.

While the Democratic Alliance for Egypt paved the way for the Freedom and Justice Party to win a landslide majority (235 seats) in parliament, it was the main reason behind discrediting the slogan that "Islam is the solution." This slogan was no longer used in the following electoral battles, as the coalition replaced it with a slogan that read: "We want good for Egypt."

The Islamist wave hit the unconstitutional People's Assembly, paving the way for Morsi, the Freedom and Justice Party's candidate, to take the helm of presidency and distancing the military council away from the political scene. The new constitution battle has witnessed the eruption of a second wave of civil-forces alliances.

This new wave began with the Egyptian Congress Party, which was founded by former presidential candidate Amr Moussa and included 25 political groups.

Amidst attempts to build a broad national bloc, and against a backdrop of a constitutional battle — as the Constituent Assembly’s mandate was extended for another two months according to the president's constitutional declaration — the president managed to ensure that he was immune from prosecution. He also isolated the public prosecutor, a leap forward in changing the order of the civil and revolutionary priorities. Hence, the National Salvation Front was born.

However, the front reflected many contradictions in its goals and decisions. Before the end of November, the national and democratic forces declared that the front will represent all civil groups in their opposition to the constitutional declaration. However, the constitution was enforced, with the establishment of a collective national leadership, with a coordination committee to manage the country's daily work.

The front included key figures, symbols of civil forces in Egypt. These include Amr Moussa, Mohammed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahi, Mohammed Abul-Ghar, Sayyid Badawi, Ahmed Saeed, George Ishak and many more. The civil front, however, has several challenges to face.

Most importantly, the front is faced with a daunting mission of developing its political rhetoric and preserving it against any attempts within its own ranks and from outside to destabilize it. The front declared it will vie for the legislative elections in April and will run under one single electoral list. Yet it faces the challenge of preparing electoral lists.

Some groups within the coalition criticized the front for including members of the former regime, known as feloul. They believe that this would tarnish the front's image in the eyes of the voters and would lose the support of the revolutionary forces. These groups have gone as far as pushing their parties to leave the coalition.

What makes matters worse is that some of the front's main founders failed to remain unscathed by the objections and criticism. Moussa, Badawi (head of the Wafd Party) and Rifaat Saeed, head of the Socialist Rally party, were accused of being remnants of the former regime. The most surprising thing, however, is that Moussa was placed on the list of remnants of the old regime, as the official definition of feloul is those who filled a position in the leadership of the National Democratic Party or its parliamentary body over the past 10 years. This does not apply in Moussa's case.

Furthermore, the front ought to resist attempts to veer it off course, especially given that many groups have yet to consider it as the banner that would include all civil forces. The front also faces some semi-civil groups, such as the Strong Egypt Party led by Abdel Moneim Abou al-Fotouh, who explicitly declared his refusal to join the front. Abou al-Fotouh has also proposed the establishment of a new political alliance to ElBaradei, as he believes the coalition's mission is over with the enforcement of the constitution, and there is no reason for it to continue.

The third challenge facing the front is its ability to preserve the thread that connects it to the public, especially the silent forgotten majority and the dejected revolutionary forces. Thus, the front ought to adhere to its main protocol.

Alongside the polarization attempts on the part of some civil and semi-civil forces, the front must face the challenge of political Islam forces, whose leaders began talking about not objecting to the national dialogue, without any conditions imposed on the National Salvation Front, as it includes major members and groups. They believe that dialogue could lead to its dissolution in the daily political sphere, should efforts to eliminate it fail.

Found in: secularists, mohammed morsi

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