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Political divisions threaten El-Sisi's call for electoral consensus

Political parties are set to hold a meeting Saturday in a bid to reach consensus over parliamentary candidates

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 17 Jan 2015
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi with party leaders (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Political leaders are expected to attend a meeting on Saturday which aims at compiling a national electoral list of candidates representing all mainstream political parties.

Earlier this week, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi held two meetings with the leaders of Egypt's main political parties where he made it clear that he is ready to support any list that is able to gather candidates from across the political spectrum.

The chairman of the Wafd Party, El-Sayed El-Badawi, said he has invited the leaders of most political parties to the Saturday meeting at Wafd's Cairo headquarters in a bid to reach consensus over national lists of candidates that could win a majority of seats in the spring elections.

El-Badawi's invitation was presented to all political leaders who participated in the meetings with El-Sisi on 12 and 13 January and also includes public figures such as Amr Moussa, foreign minister under Hosni Mubarak and chairman of the committee which drafted Egypt's new constitution last year.

Also invited are former prime minister Kamal El-Ganzouri and the former coordinator of the anti-Mubarak Kifaya movement Abdel-Gelil Mostafa.

El-Ganzouri and Mostafa are preparing separate "national lists" of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary polls, scheduled to be held in two rounds between 21 March and 7 May.

El-Badawi said that a number of electoral alliances have been created in recent months and that "we want to forge all of these into one national coalition with candidates from across the political spectrum."

The "national lists" will compete for the 120 seats reserved for party-based candidates, but coordination among political forces can also extend to include the 420 seats allocated to individual candidates.

Wafd Party member Hossam El-Khouli told Ahram Online that Wafd's invitation is based on a deep conviction that "secular political forces must unite into one electoral coalition capable of winning a majority in the coming parliament, and that acting separately will not help these parties achieve a parliamentary majority or thwart attempts by Islamist forces that were affiliated with the banned Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate parliament again."

In the last parliamentary elections, held in winter 2011/12, the Muslim Brotherhood's electoral coalition won the largest share of seats at 45 percent.

El-Khouli said the invitation was extended to all political leaders who attended the meetings with El-Sisi. The Nour Party, representing Salafists, was not invited to the meeting.

Political divisions and acute ideological differences, however, threaten to disrupt the Wafd Party's attempt to forge national lists. Revolutionary forces antagonistic to the former two regimes of Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood have said they cannot join any coalition that might include representatives of Mubarak's now-defunct National Democratic Party (NDP).

Medhat El-Zahed, a leading member of the leftist Popular Current, commented: "If Wafd's invitation aims to serve President El-Sisi's goal of having a back-up majority in the coming parliament, we will reject it."

"We have announced several times that we are against joining any coalitions that might include any of the remnants of the Mubarak regime," said El-Zahed who attended El-Sisi's meeting with political leaders on Monday.

As a result, El-Zahed said, "all revolutionary forces that aim to forge an electoral alliance under the Democratic Current take Wafd's invitation to the former Mubarak-era prime minister El-Ganzouri and to leaders of the Egyptian Front electoral alliance as a good reason to reject it."

The Egyptian Front coalition includes several high-profile figures associated with Mubarak's regime.

El-Zahed said the Popular Current and other revolutionary forces are currently coordinating with Kifaya's former coordinator Abdel-Gelil Mostafa. "We are ideologically in harmony with Mostafa and we aim together to forge lists of candidates who are against the return of Mubarak and against the Brotherhood's diehard supporters," said El-Zahed.

El-Zahed's Popular Current announced two weeks ago that it would not participate in the coming parliamentary polls, but it also said that its members are allowed to run on an individual basis.

El-Khouli told Ahram Online that in contrast with what El-Zahed had said, an invitation was directed to Ahmed El-Borai, a leading official of the Democratic Current, and also to Kifaya's Abdel-Gelil Mostafa.

"We hope they will attend the meeting and that all will put their ideological differences aside so that we can reach consensus," said El-Khouli.

Sources indicated that well-known film director Khaled Youssef is trying his best to convince leaders of the Democratic Current to attend the Wafd meeting.

For their part, leaders of the Egyptian Front coalition attacked El-Zahed, accusing the Democratic Current of pursuing "extremist foreign agendas."

Nabil Dibis, the chairman of the Modern Egypt Party, told Ahram Online that he is against any coordination with the Wafd or the Democratic Current.

"I think that our party and all those who are members of the Egyptian Front coalition are in favour of coordination with El-Ganzouri rather than with the Wafd," said Dibis, adding that "it is quite difficult to bring political coalitions with severe ideological differences and animosities into one electoral coalition."

Dibis indicated that "when President El-Sisi urged political parties to reach consensus over national lists of parliamentary candidates, we all took this as an invitation for these parties to coordinate with El-Ganzouri rather than begin from scratch with the Wafd."

Dibis said Wafd's meeting will only help drive a new wedge between political parties, rather than bringing them together under one electoral umbrella.

Anwar El-Sadat, the chairman of the liberal Reform and Development Party, told Ahram Online that "all political parties should show a positive response to Wafd's meeting because this is the last serious initiative to bring all secular political parties together at a critical stage."

"We know that ideological differences are very sharp, but secular political parties should put these aside and seize the meeting to show Egyptians that they can reach consensus and win the coming parliament," El-Sadat said.


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