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Constitution Party head Shukrallah says it won't ally with old regime

In an interview with Al-Ahram, Shukrallah talks about parliamentary elections, the 2011 uprising and the Muslim Brotherhood

Amira Hesham, Monday 1 Sep 2014
Hala Shukrallah
Hala Shukrallah, the new president of the Dostour liberal party, speaks during an interview with Reuters in her office at the party's headquarters in Cairo, February 25, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
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In an interview with Al-Ahram published on Monday, head of Egypt's liberal Constitution Party Hala Shukrallah speaks about challenges in the upcoming parliament, the failure of the 2011 uprising and reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

New parliament

Her party – founded by prominent leftist and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei – is seeking electoral coalitions ahead of the parliamentary vote, Shukrallah says – with the exception of those from the regime of Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year rule ended with the 2011 uprising.

She says her party made a blacklist of 400 people who "damaged the political and economic lives [of Egyptians] through corruption and exploiting their positions for personal benefits" and will not ally with them.

She criticised Amr Moussa, Mubarak's foreign minister and chairman of the 2014 constitution-drafting committee, for trying to form a civil electoral coalition, labelling the failed alliance a "gate for remnants of the old regime to sit in parliament".

Moussa's alliance fell apart last month when two leading liberal parties – the Wafd Party and the Free Egyptians Party, among others – pulled out.

Shukrallah says many new civilian parties are only a mask for old-regime personalities to return to parliament.

Shukrallah also spoke of ex-presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, head of the Egyptian Popular Current, who promised to form an opposition front – which she describes as unnecessary.

"After the 2014 presidential election we decided to form a democratic current – or call it opposition, if you like – due to the deterioration of many democratic issues. And we are all equal partners in it. So Sabahi did not have to launch an opposition front, because it is already appearing through different initiatives."

But she is still in favour of teaming up with other parties, as cooperation is stronger than singular leadership and sharing responsibility is a better scenario.

She will not personally run in the elections, saying she prefers to work on strengthening her party internally.

In parliament, she says her party's aim is to apply the newly-amended constitution towards real action, and complement it with legislation to achieve adequate monitoring of executive institutions.

Among the issues she thinks should be changed in the constitution are military trials for civilians.

Opposition

Opposition forces are now "taking the right steps", she says, and learning from "past mistakes". She says the opposition is trying to clearly present its goals – and itself as a viable political alternative – to the public.

Egypt's opposition has been recently criticised for not providing a practical substitute to the political status-quo that some see as a return of the old regime, backed by the police and military.

Shukrallah also thinks the 2011 uprising did not achieve its goals of freedom and social justice.

"On the contrary, it suffered distrust and defamation. Its youth have been cast aside – some of them are in prison, while the hopes and dreams of others have been destroyed. Now we see young people trying to leave the country and we're back to the old picture," she said.

Reconciliation?

There have been recent calls for reconciliation with the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which has clashed with authorities since the military-led ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last summer.

Shukrallah says those who commit violence or incite it should be held accountable.

However, she criticised the government's security crackdown on the group – which has left hundreds killed and thousands jailed since Morsi's ouster, including the Brotherhood's top leadership.

Confrontation should be intellectual and political and not on a security-level, she says. She blames both the Brotherhood and the government, who refuse to hold themselves accountable for past mistakes.

She called for a fair and transparent investigation into major deadly incidents and clashes starting from 25 January 2011 – through the sizeable clashes that same year on Mohamed Mahmoud Street and in front of the Egyptian cabinet headquarters – and until the forced dispersal of the pro-Morsi Rabaa sit-in in August of last year.

Even though she says no one should be excluded from the political scene, she is against parties that use religion as a tool for political ends – even the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, a former Brotherhood ally which has since emerged as a supporter of the current authorities and is planning on running in parliamentary elections.

She says the Nour Party is unconstitutional – but has been accepted by the government due to them having "made a deal involving mutual benefits".

This, however, does not change the party's extremist discourse, she says.

Claims that the Nour Party will include Coptic Christians on its parliamentary electoral lists, she says, are merely to meet expectations of equal representation in the elections.

ElBaradei

Shukrallah, 59, made waves when she was elected head of the Constitution Party in February, succeeding its founder ElBaradei and becoming the first woman – and Coptic Christian – to head a political party in Egypt.

ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising who also served as Egypt's interim vice president after Morsi's ouster, withdrew from

Egypt's political life after the Rabaa dispersal. He now lives abroad.

In the Al-Ahram interview, Shukrallah described his withdrawal as a personal choice that came with a heavy price. He suffered a smear campaign in Egyptian media for pulling out of the interim cabinet – with some calling him a traitor and Brotherhood supporter. 

She insists he didn't deserve such defamation, adding that the campaign eventually led to defaming the 25 January uprising.

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