Meet the new opposition force: Tagammu

Hazem Zohny , Monday 6 Dec 2010

The question is whether its position as a force will last

Following preliminary results, the left-wing Tagammu appears to be the biggest winner, in terms of numbers, amongst Egypt's opposition. The party’s win comes on the back of its refusal to tow the line of the Wafd and the Muslim Brotherhood and pull out from the run-offs in protest of "wide spread" rigging in favour of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

The Tagammu’s new five-seat parliamentary representation marks a historic development for the party. It held just one seat in the out going parliament.

But while Tagammu may have slightly beefed up its number of MPs from 2005, the additions come at a steep cost: a splintering party, a loss of confidence in its chairman, and mounting allegations of a government-Tagammu deal that saw rigging taking place in the party’s favor.

The third of these consequences led to the withdrawal of NDP candidate Abdel-Fatah Diab from elections in Dakahleya’s Aga district. Diab insisted votes were being rigged in favour of Tagammu’s Raafat Seif -- a reluctant candidate who, until the end of October, was unsure of his participation in the elections, promising to pull out at the sight of one instance of rigging.

Hussein Abdel Razek, head of Tagammu’s political bureau, says that the accusations against Seif have been of ballot stuffing, yet insists that the illegal practice is rampant and employed by every candidate who has any hope of winning.

“If that is considered rigging,” he says, “then every winning candidate took part in it.”

But Razek asserts that no deal exists between his party and the government, declaring the accusation “complete nonsense”.
Instead, he says that if there was ever going to be a deal with the government it would have been “when our members were being hunted and jailed” during the 70s, not now after almost 35 years on the political arena.

On the other hand, Tagammu’s recently-resigned Port Said candidate El-Badry Farghaly insists that under-the-table deals were made: “Of course there is a government deal – 80 million Egyptians know this.”

Farghaly’s resignation from the party after the first round of elections instigated a flurry of other resignations and committee closures all around Egypt. The real threat to Egypt’s now largest opposition front is hence a splintering party suffering from mass member discontent with its chairman, Rifaat El-Said.

“This man [El-Said] has transformed a humble leftist party into a branch of the NDP,” says Farghaly. saying that El-Said’s dispositions are the cause of “continued resignations and committee closures in all the governorates.”

What all this means for the party remains unclear, and indeed, there is a lingering question mark over whether it's position as the largest opposition presence in parliament will last, or if figures will change as boycotts and withdrawals and disputes impact parties and their members.

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