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New Salafist Watan Party mulls electoral alliance with Islamist forces

Country's newest Salafist party welcomes parliamentary electoral alliance with other Islamist forces - including rival Nour Party - but rules out cooperation with secularists

Sherif Tarek , Wednesday 9 Jan 2013
Emad Abdel Ghaffour
Emad Abdel Ghaffour, head of the Islamist party Salafi Al-Watan (Photo: Reuters)
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Egypt's newly-launched Salafist Watan Party is currently in talks over a possible electoral alliance with other Islamist parties and groups in advance of upcoming parliamentary polls, according to party spokesman Yossry Hamad.

"We have already met representatives of [the moderate-Islamist] Wasat Party, [the ultra-conservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's] Building and Development Party, and [the Islamist] Hadara ('Civilization') Party," Hamad told Ahram Online.

Hamad – who used to be a spokesman for the Salafist Nour Party before leaving it along with numerous other leading members to establish Watan – clarified that the new party would welcome an alliance with Nour.

"I have always said that the Nour Party is the closest to our hearts because it was us who founded it," he said.

The Nour Party was dealt a major blow in December by the resignation of 150 members, including former chairman Emad El-Din Abdel-Ghafour, who last week announced the launch of the Watan Party.

What reportedly led to the split was a conflict between Abdel-Ghafour, who had been leader of the party's "reformist front" during his last few months as chairman, and followers of cleric Yasser El-Borhami – one of the founders of the Salafist Calling group.

One day before Abdel-Ghafour officially unveiled the new Watan Party, the Salafist Calling – the movement that originally spawned the Nour Party in 2011 – stated that it would not support any party other than its own political arm.

Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar, however, stressed to Ahram Online that an alliance between both parties could not be ruled out. "The Watan Party is on our tentative list of potential allies," he said on Tuesday without elaboration.

One day later, Hamad voiced similar sentiments. "We left the Nour Party due to differences over policy and management, not due to ideological differences," he stated.

Ideological disagreements, however, would prevent the Watan Party from pondering an alliance with leftist and liberal forces, according to Hamad.

"Some of them [secularists] are against the whole Islamic project and even call for the abrogation of the new constitution," he said. "They are clearly adopting a different stance and have taken a completely different path than us, so [an alliance] is not likely to work with them."

The opposition has branded the newly-ratified national charter "unrepresentative." The document was drafted by an Islamist-led Constituent Assembly that saw last-minute walk-outs by church representatives, liberals, leftists and others to protest perceived Islamist domination of the assembly.

Critics, particularly the National Salvation Front – led by opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradie, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa – have argued that the new constitution will adversely impact public freedoms and civil society.

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