National Council conference ends in chaos after announcing members

Salma Shukrallah, Tuesday 24 May 2011

First group of National Council members chosen, triggering objections and fighting

National Council
Photo: Mai Shaheen

A list of 124 names was announced on Tuesday as the first members of the National Council, a body created by the first Egypt National Conference. The council is to be supervised and managed by 17 of those members including the sponsor of the first Egypt National Conference, Mamdouh Hamza.

Hamza, together with Mohamed Faieq, human rights delegate at the African Union and member of the council’s coordinating committee, announced the names at a conference at the press syndicate that ended in chaos. A fight erupted when several attendees objected that certain names were missing from the list. Attendees could be seen shouting and pushing each other. According to coordinators, all the appropriate names had been filed with the coordinating committee and each had met the required criteria.

The 7 May Egypt National Conference, which was held under the slogan “the people defend their revolution,” had declared that a national council made up of parties, movements and civil society representatives would be formed to “defend and continue the revolution.”

Each party, movement or organisation was expected to nominate individuals for the council. Each parties was allowed two representatives and movements were allowed one, except for April 6 and Kifaya movements which were each allowed two. According to the website, each civil society organisation which had an influential role before and during the revolution was allowed one representative. Independent and free unions also each would have one representative.

Another list of public figures will be announced; however, Hamza said the list still needs the approval of the members already chosen. The second group is expected to be announced after the council’s first meeting.

The criteria for choosing representatives include how involved the party, movement or organisation had been in society and the type of work it performed. It was also required that no party, movement or organisation members have been members of the former ruling National Democratic Party or ever associated with the former regime.   

What remained unclear was how the coordinating committee would decide how involved a movement or organisation had been. Also, several movements were not represented and some had more representatives than others, such as April 6 and Kifaya, without a clear reason for this.

The council has yet to announce 25-35 members representing each governorate in Egypt, also made up of activists and public figures. The aim of the governorate councils is to engage citizens all over Egypt in an effort to achieve social justice, create employment, oversee public resources and achieve a decent life for all, according to the website.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, was only represented by one member of the Brotherhood Youth. However, this is due to a Brotherhood decision not to participate in the Egypt National Conference or nominate representatives for the council. 

The National Council is one of many initiatives started recently by different political groups to create a united front that can counterbalance what they consider a major political force in Egypt now, the Muslim Brotherhood.

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