Alliance called by Egypt's Moussa stumbles ahead of parliamentary poll

Heba Abdel Sattar and Ayat Al-Tawy, Monday 16 Jun 2014

Groups are instead flocking to an alliance formed by the liberal Wafd Party, dealing a blow to veteran politician Amr Moussa's hopes of forming a coalition

An electoral alliance called to back newly-inaugurated President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Egypt's upcoming parliamentary elections appears to have failed to drum up interest so far among the country's political groups.

Almost a week ago, former foreign minister and presidential candidate Amr Moussa began hosting talks to build up a coalition to run in the upcoming parliamentary polls for the purpose of backing El-Sisi – the former army chief who led the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year and won last month's presidential election by nearly 97 percent.

But the call appears to have found little favour within the political spectrum in the Arab world's biggest nation.

Another coalition was announced days later by Egypt's oldest party, the liberal Wafd Party, drawing many groups Moussa had held talks with and thereby pulling out the rug from under the former diplomat's alliance.

The Wafd Party itself was one of the forces approached by Moussa, who served under Mubarak as Egypt's foreign minister for 10 years and headed the Arab League.

"We have pulled out early and announced a new alliance because we knew Moussa's coalition would not form and would disband," Yasser El-Hodeiby, deputy head of the Wafd Party, told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.

The Wafd Party secured the biggest civilian bloc in the 2012 parliament, coming third to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Nour Party by gaining almost 8 percent of the seats in the lower house.

"Only parties which have presence on the ground will survive," El-Hodeiby said, dismissing accusations that his party's alliance was merely a political manoeuvre to prevail over Moussa's.

El-Hodeiby said his party did not take issue with Moussa over the portion of seats in the upcoming chamber, saying discussions merely tackled the alliance's framework.

Unlikely alliance

The Wafd Party was not the only party to pull out of talks with Moussa. The centre-left Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) as well as the Reform and Development Party have also followed suit.

Instead, both parties have voiced interest in teaming up with the Wafd Party.

"The supreme commission has [initially] approved joining the alliance, but an official fusion will be decided during the commission's next meeting in early July," said Maha Abdel-Nasser, ESDP's assistant secretary-general.

The Wafd Party, which was founded almost a century ago, said its prospective six-member coalition will not only be a parliamentary coalition but will also capitalise on a platform that works towards a "modern, democratic and just state democracy."

Parliamentary elections are due to take place within months.

Days before he handed over power, former interim leader Adly Masnour rammed through a revised law setting new rules for the upcoming parliamentary elections over which both his supporters and opponents have voiced alarm.

Of the 540 parliament members to be elected, 420 will be drawn from individual candidates, while 120 will be from absolute closed lists.

Critics say the law will revive a voting system similar to that during the era of long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak which allowed businessmen to use their local patronage networks in order to secure the majority of seats in parliament.

The Free Egyptians Party, founded by Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris shortly after the 2011 uprising which toppled Mubarak, was also among the major groups Moussa sought to join forces with.

But the party, which boasts a board popular base and offices sprawling across Egypt nationwide, believes running independently in the poll will reap greater benefits.

"The Egyptian people deserve to have new options and to see political forces give them the chance to see new faces ... away from the old regime figures who manipulated political life for decades," Ahmed Said, the party's head, said in a statement on Sunday.

The party, though, will "leave the door wide open to all national entities and individuals to stand for elections under its lists or among its candidates," Said added.


The withdrawal on Sunday of former General Intelligence head Mourad Muwafi, who spearheaded talks alongside Moussa, dealt another blow to the prospective alliance. Muwafi has cited the participating forces' "personal interests" as a reason for pulling out, casting doubts over the coalition's efficacy.

Critics say declaring a parliamentary alliance in support of the president is unconstitutional, given the fact that the parliament will supervise the president's performance and that it has parallel powers to the head of state.

Observers say veteran politician Moussa, who came in fifth in the 2012 election, might resort to youth groups – namely the Tamarod group that spearheaded calls for last year's protests that culminated in Morsi's ouster – as an alternative to bolster his alliance.

An informed source, who asked to be remain anonymous, says a liaison between Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq, former presidential hopeful and the last prime minister under Mubarak, is highly on the cards, given the strong support Shafiq's National Movement enjoys in Egypt's poor cities and slum areas – something Moussa, who capitalises on his credentials as a former senior diplomat, lacks.


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