Egypt's political parties slammed for signing agreement with military rulers

Salma Shukrallah, Sunday 2 Oct 2011

Critics claim agreement makes a few concessions at the expense of the revolution's fundamental demands; head of Freedom and Justice Party describes meeting as 'successful'

Egypt's political parties (Photo by Al-Ahram)

In a meeting on Saturday between 13 political parties and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a written deal was put forward to act as an official agreement between the military council and Egypt’s official parties regarding various controversial issues. All but one of the parties, the Social Democratic Party, signed the document.

The agreement involved eight points, including that Article 5 of the elections law be amended to allow political parties to field candidates in the one-third of seats that had previously been reserved for independent candidates. Attending political parties, together with many other groups, had previously threatened to boycott elections unless the controversial article was cancelled.

The agreement also said the council would consider ending the use of the emergency law, with the exception of applying it to particular crimes, and that military trials of civilians would only be applied in cases specified by the military judiciary law.

The council would also consider banning some former National Democratic Party members from political participation. It was agreed that a document with the main agreed upon constitutional principles will be drafted and will include the main criteria for choosing the committee to draft the constitution.

The newly elected parliament will convene in the second half of January 2012 and the Shura Council on 24 March. Both houses will convene in the last week of March 2012 in order to choose the committee members who will draft the new constitution, in accordance with the parties’ prior agreement on the main guiding principles. The constitution has to be  approved through a national referundum. Nominations for the presidency will begin the day  following the approval of the constitution.

The undersigned party representatives also declared their full support for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and their appreciation of its role in protecting the revolution and its process of transferring power to the people.

The eight point agreement aroused much anger from several political groups, including the National Association for Change, which called for a demonstration next Friday in condemnation. Political parties have also suffered internal dissent as many of their members denounced the decision of their representatives to sign the agreement. 

The Wafd’s Essam Shiha, whose party signed the deal, speculates that “those in the meeting were taken by surprise. They spent six hours in a meeting with continuous discussions.” Stating his own opinion, he added, “It seemed at first that concessions were made from the military council’s side since their proposal agreed to amend the much criticised Article 5. However, after much thinking one realises that the parties’ actual demands were circumvented.”

Many in fact strongly upheld the view that the agreement had circumvented the movement’s actual demands. The day following the meeting a number of statements were released criticising the council‘s proposal and the parties’ consent of it.

Hundreds of El-Adl Party members criticised, in an official statement, its party representative, Mostafa El-Naggar, for signing the agreement saying, “The original demand of all parties was for a 100% unconditional party list, and amending Article 5 is not an accomplishment.”

They added, “The state of emergency has legally ended and for the council to state [in the signed document] that the council would consider ending the use of the emergency law with ‘the exception of applying it to particular crimes’ is unjustifiable. Moreover, banning NDP members from political participation should be applied to all of its former members not some, as mentioned in the document.”

Following the statement, El-Naggar declared on his twitter account that he "revokes his signature," adding that he leaves it up to the party's general assembly to decide whether SCAF's proposed document would be approved or not.   

While the Karama Party signed the agreement, Hamdeen Sabahi, the party's presidential candidate,also released a statement condemning the decision. The statement read, “The demands of the revolution have been clearly circumvented as there was no clear decision to end the use of the emergency law although the state of emergency had legally ended on 30 September, the banning of former NDP members from political participation is still ‘under study’ and the decision to end the military trials is still left for manoeuvre.”

The Egyptian Current Party, officially unregistered so far, condemned the outcome of the meeting stating, “The official parties do not represent the political movement or its demands, and the military council’s political decisions lacks the vision and aspirations of the people.”

On the other hand, a member of the Social Democratic Party, who chose to remain anonymous until the party had decided on an official stand regarding the issue, explained that although the party representative at the meeting, Mohamed Abou El-Ghar, chose not to sign, the party's decision can only be made official after its meeting due late on Sunday. However, he says the document “makes a few concessions to the parties at the expense of the revolution's fundamental demands as for example: 1- full annulment of emergency law; 2- radical reform of the police - the root cause of the lack of security; 3- repeal of all anti-democratic laws, including anti-strike laws; 4- retrial or release of civilians sentenced by military trials; 5- negotiations in good faith with striking workers, fulfilling promises made to them and adopting social oriented policies.”

However, some argued, including the undersigned, which the outcome of the meeting was a good compromise and the parties had gained much with their ability to change Article 5 that would have allowed former NDP figures to dominate the next parliament.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, head of the Freedom and Justice Party, described the meeting with SCAF as “successful.” According to Morsi, the meeting not only succeeded in amending Article 5 of the election law but it “ended debate over supra-constitutional amendments by reaching a consensus that parties will agree on constitutional guiding principles, and that there will be in turn no supra-constitutional amendments.”

Parties that signed their agreements to the 8 stated points included the Wafd Party (represented by Sayed El-Badawy), the Freedom and Justice Party (represented by Mohamed Morsi), the Democratic Front Party (represented by El-Said Kamel), the Reform and Development Party (represented by Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat and Rami Lakah), the Modern Egypt Party (represented by Nabil Debes), Al-Nour Salafist Party (represented by Emad Abd El-Ghafour), Karama Party (represented by Mohamed Sami), the Nasserist Arab Democratic Party (represented by Mohamed Abou El-Elaa), Al-Ghad Party (represented by Mousa Mostafa Mousa), Al-Adl Party (represented by Mostafa El-Naggar), the Free Egyptians Party (represented by Ahmed Said), and the Arab Justice and Equality Party (represented by Ali Ferig).  Some parties chose not to attend the meeting, including the Wasat Islamic Party.

The cabinet will hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the new amendments to the elections law and all that was discussed during the Saturday meeting between parties and SCAF, including suspending the emergency law and the proposal to ban former NDP members from political participation.

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