October 9, 2005

Egypt opposition groups join forces for elections

By Jonathan Wright

CAIRO (Reuters) - Ten Egyptian groups, including liberals,
leftists and the Kefaya (Enough) protest movement, have joined
forces to fight the ruling party in parliamentary elections
next month, members said on Sunday.

The new alliance, the National Front for Political and
Constitutional Change, could pose a serious challenge to many
candidates from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP),
which now holds over 90 percent of parliamentary seats.

The unrecognized Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest
opposition group, is part of the electoral alliance but, unlike
the nine other groups, its candidates will not stand on a
single opposition list, the deputy leader of the group said.

The alliance includes most of the significant opposition
forces, ranging from leftists such as the Tagammu Party to the
traditional liberal Wafd Party, Arab nationalists such as the
Nasserites, and some moderate Islamists.

Talks are under way to bring in the liberal Ghad (Tomorrow)
Party of Ayman Nour, the main rival to President Hosni Mubarak
in presidential elections in September.

Even if the alliance greatly expands the opposition
presence in parliament, it is not clear whether any one party
would meet the conditions for fielding a candidate in the next
presidential elections in or before 2011.

To field a candidate, a party must have won at least 23 of
the 444 elected seats in parliament at the previous elections.
The largest opposition party now is Ghad, with six seats.

Deputy Brotherhood leader Mohamed Habib told Reuters the
moderate Islamist movement could not join a unified list
because there was not enough time for all the groups to agree
on a unified political platform.

But the Brotherhood will coordinate with the others on
candidates, avoiding competition where possible, and conceding
a constituency to a strong candidate with local support,
whichever group he represents, Habib said.


"The Muslim Brotherhood's representative in the front
confirmed that the Brotherhood is committed to full
coordination with this unified list," a formal statement said.

The Brotherhood said last week that it expects to treble
the number of members it has in parliament in the November
elections, encouraged by what it sees as greater political
freedom and awareness in the Arab world's most populous

Habib said it would field at least 150 candidates -- double
its participation in the last elections in 2000, when it won 17
seats making it the chamber's biggest opposition bloc.

The Brotherhood's unwillingness to cooperate on a unified
list caused some resentment in leftist circles.

"The Brotherhood were very trying and very annoying. They
don't understand anything," said one leftist leader, who took
part in the talks and asked not to be named.

George Ishak, coordinator of the Kefaya movement, said the
parties would meet again on Sunday to go through detailed lists
of candidates and start the process of selecting the strongest.

The Ghad head of organization, Wael Nawara, told Reuters
that some members of the National Front had tried to include
Ghad but had met resistance from other members.

"It's quite sad to see some of the older parties still
resisting the idea that there is a new generation of
opposition," Nawara said.