Brotherhood and friends stick to their deal with SCAF despite uproar

Salma Shukrallah, Monday 3 Oct 2011

13 parties which signed a watershed agreement with the military council on electoral issues last Saturday face internal discord and external criticism, but stick to their guns

Mohamed Morsi, head of Freedom and Justice Party (Photo: Reuters)

Sixty political parties assembled on Sunday at the headquarters of the liberal Wafd party to discuss the meeting which took place between 13 parties and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) over the weekend.

At the end, the majority of the parties declared their insistence on abiding by a much criticised agreement they reached with the military council.

While the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party did not sign the agreement on Saturday for technical reasons, its representative Mohamed Abou El-Ghar confirmed Monday the party’s agreement with the deal, assuring others that his signature will follow shortly.

The signed agreement between some political parties and SCAF created an internal upheaval within almost every single party that signed on.

The party that experienced highest levels of internal divisions over the deal with SCAF was the liberal El- Adl Party, whose members issued official statements condemning their leadership.

Some El-Adl party members issued a statement criticising their representative Mostafa El-Naggar for signing.

The dissidents stated that, “The original demand for all parties was for a 100 per cent, unconditional party list, and amending Article 5 is not an accomplishment. 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, the ban on National Democratic Party members participating in politics should be applied to all of its former members and not merely some, as mentioned in the document.”

To those who signed the SCAF agreement, on the other hand, the meeting was a success in that it extracted some concessions from the council’s side.

Mohamed Morsi, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, on the other hand, defended his party's approval of the document.

Morsi said that the military council has agreed to provide timetables for the transition of power to a democratically-elected civil authority, and to announce specific dates for presidential elections, slated for sometime next year, and to cancel Article 5 of the elections law, granting political parties the right to run for seats previously reserved for individual candidates.

The Freedom and Justice Party did not experience internal divisions over their position, in contrast to other parties like El-Adl.

Hamdin Sabahy, presidential candidate for the Karama Party, a Nasserist group, whose representative agreed to sign the SCAF document, together with his campaign, issued a statement condemning their mother party's 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 legally ended on 30 September. In addition the banning of former NDP members from political participation is still left ‘under study’.”

However, Amin Eskandar, one of the founders and leading figures of the Karama Party, insists that the Hamdin Sabahy campaign is not the whole party. He says that while the campaign might have a stand regarding the issue, it is separate from that decided upon by the party.

As for Karama party proper, Eskandar confirms that there has been no splits regarding the decision to sign, and that the party’s executive board unanimously agreed on signing the SCAF document.

However, Eskandar says the board has called for a meeting with members who remain unsatisfied with the decision in order to clarify the party’s position.  

He added that, “the outcome of the Saturday meeting with SCAF should be seen as one step forward in the debate. All previous meetings involved only listening from the parties’ side, while none of the parties’ proposals were taken into consideration by SCAF."

"This is the first time that concessions not promises are made, although such promises will not be implemented without future public pressure through mass Tahrir demonstrations”.

Other parties also experienced internal turbulent reactions to the SCAF deal amongst its members.

The Social Democratic Party, for example, confirmed that several of its members have submitted their resignation over the matter.

Samer Soliman, one of the party’s founding members, says that one person from the executive board and several other members of different branches have submitted their resignation following the party’s approval of the SCAF document. However, Soliman says the decision was taken democratically and was approved by a majority vote.

The controversial SCAF document did not only create splits within parties but also within broader electoral coalitions.

The Wasat, a liberal Islamic Party and a member of the Democratic Coalition for Egypt along with the MB, stormed out of the coalition’s meeting late on Sunday when the MB's Freedom and Justice Party and the Wafd Party, two main members of the Coalition, insisted on standing by their signed deal with SCAF.  

The Egyptian Bloc, Egypt’s second main party coalition which comprises a number of liberal and left parties, has not yet witnessed considerable internal upheaval over the agreement.

Gihan Shabaan, a member of the Socialist People’s Alliance Party, confirms that there has been no trouble from members, although her party amongst others within the bloc were totally against the deal, while several other parties, including the Free Egyptians and the Social Democratic Party, have agreed to sign.

Shabaan adds that it is unlikely that any problems would ensue since most parties within the coalition have already “agreed to disagree”.

Shabaan explains that, for example, many of her party members were already unsatisfied to have entered as socialists into a coalition with parties whose constituencies are mainly big business tycoons; but such a stand was overruled by members who believed the coalition should allow greater disparities.

In fact the disparities were significant between the different party stands within the Bloc, as The People’s Alliance released a statement condemning the SCAF’s statement; The Free Egyptian Party released another statement explaining that it considers the deal reached with SCAF “a positive step and the beginning of a political breakthrough to end Egypt’s months-long political deadlock”.  

So far, none of the 13 signatory parties have abandoned their decision to sign, despite much dissent from many rank and file members and from other political forces.    

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