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Egypt's opposition NSF still haunted by whispers of links to Mubarak regime

With parliamentary polls around corner, Egypt's National Salvation Front (NSF) can't shake claims that its membership includes figures that were once affiliated with ousted Mubarak regime

Randa Ali , Monday 21 Jan 2013
NSF
National Salvation front (Photo: Ahram)
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Almost two months have passed since the rise of the National Salvation Front (NSF). The front came into being in late November to oppose President Mohamed Morsi's "dictatorial" 22 November decree and unite key figures of Egypt's political opposition against the post-revolution ascendancy of political Islam.

The NSF – which includes among its ranks leftists, liberals, centrists and Nasserists – is, however, accused by its critics of harbouring members who had cooperated with, or even directly belonged to, the ousted Mubarak regime.

It is a charge that has dissuaded a number of would-be sympathisers from cooperating with the NSF.

"Since the launch of the NSF, we have had our own reservations about certain elements within the front that were at one time close to the former regime," Ahmed Imam, member of the Strong Egypt Party's political bureau, told Ahram Online.

Many had expected the Strong Egypt Party, founded last year by former Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, to throw in its lot with the NSF, especially given the party's vehement opposition to Morsi's November decree.

"Just because remnants of former regime oppose Morsi, this does not necessarily mean we must work withthem," stressed Imam. He went on to express concern about the current political situation, arguing that figures formerly affiliated with Mubarak were now reinventing themselves through their presence within the NSF.

Imam further criticised the NSF for "reinforcing the idea that the political battle is simply about Islamists vs. non-Islamists." He pointed out that a chief goal of the Strong Egypt Party was the easing of Egypt's current state of political polarisation.

NSF spokesman Khaled Daoud, however, begged to differ, stressing that no NSF member was considered a "remnant" (feloul) of the former regime. He asserted that, for NSF members, the term "feloul" meant "former members of [Mubarak's] now-defunct National Democratic Party who took part in the 2005 and 2010 elections, or anyone facing corruption charges."

"Our members all agree on the revolution's demands for freedom and social justice," NSF spokesman Khaled Daoud told Ahram Online. "This is what unites the front."

Daoud added: "If we were truly working with the former regime, our young cadres would have stopped us."

While there are no reports of attempts by young NSF members to hinder the functioning of the front, criticism has not been unheard of. When the NSF was formally launched, Hossam Mones, a Nasserist activist and spokesman for the Popular Egyptian Current (one of the front's founding political forces), blasted the NSF's inclusion of figures such as Mubarak-era foreign minister Amr Moussa.

"I oppose any coordination or alliance with the felul and any revolutionary leadership that includes figures who have cooperated with the Mubarak regime or have been part of it," Mones declared via Twitter.

Aside from Moussa, the Wafd Party and the National Progressive Unionist Party (Tagammu) – both of which play a role in the front – have been blacklisted by many activists for alleged deal making with Mubarak's NDP during 2005 and 2010 parliamentary polls.

Moussa spokesman and NSF media advisor Ahmed Kamal, for his part, rejected claims of past affiliations between front members and the Mubarak regime. Kamal accused the Strong Egypt Party of practising an "exclusionary discourse" that led to consensus among NSF members to refuse the party's integration into the front.

"We are against the integration of forces that want to impose their own conditions on us," stated Kamal. He added, however, that that any criticism from the front's younger members represented "healthy behaviour," stressing that the front's member-parties were often engaged in discussion with their young cadres.

Mones is not, however, the only young activist who opposes the NSF's alleged flirtations with former regime remnants.

In late November, student members of three of the NSF's founding parties – the Constitution Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance and the Egyptian Popular Current – slammed the front's dealings with Mubarak-era parties and figures.

"We...refuse to see our party leaders stand side-by-side with remnants of the former regime in the NSF," they declared in a press statement. "Members of the former regime have always been our enemies and enemies of our revolution."

The statement went on to urge the students' respective parties to withdraw from the NSF, which, they argued, "represents an affront the revolution."

While such questions continue to dog the NSF, front members are currently preoccupied with forging an electoral alliance capable of "countering the Muslim Brotherhood's domination" of parliament's lower house, says Daoud.

"Our challenge is to protect the civil and democratic nature of the Egyptian state from the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties who want to impose their points of view on everyone," Daoud explained.

No date has yet been set for Egypt's upcoming parliamentary contest, but recent official statements suggest it will likely be held in April.

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