Wahid Abdel Meguid speaks to the attendees, on his left sits Mohamed El-Beltagi (Photo: Sherif Tarek)
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party chose the heart of Boulaq Aboul-Ela, a rundown downtown district in Cairo, to hold its first-ever popular conference where figures of the Islamic group gave a snapshot of their objectives, ambitions and views late Friday.
Improving the standard of living of the poor was underlined as one of the party’s priorities during the conference, which was described as a “celebration of the Freedom and Justice’s presence in the street”. The event took place a few weeks ahead of anticipated parliamentary elections due next month.
Party member Amr Khedr outlined part of the Freedom and Justice Party’s vision to help underprivileged people. “We are looking to realise three goals: unemployment benefits to help those who cannot find jobs; medical insurance for everyone; and much better education.”
Other goals to serve the same purpose, such as reviewing wages, were listed under the social programme of the Freedom and Justice Party on handouts about the party. Under the economic programme of the party, conditions on foreign aid are completely refused.
Mohamed El-Beltagi, one of the party’s secretary generals and a Muslim Brotherhood icon, was the first to speak to the hundreds of local residents who attended the conference held on the street. The former parliamentarian started to speak after a famous video of him defending the rights of the poor during a parliamentary session was played and met with applause.
“We lived in a terrible nightmare but God enabled us to bring down a president, a vice president, a government and a corrupt parliament that was based on 100 per cent rigged elections,” he said. “Then we pursued the demands of the revolution and we still do.
“The military council fulfilled some of these demands by dismantling the former ruling corrupt National Democratic Party, the local councils, the obscene security apparatus and a labour union that was used as one of the former regime’s tools to deprive the people of their rights … But we still have a long way to go.
“We want a new parliament that starts working immediately after the end of the third phase of elections. We need an authority to supervise decisions made by the military council, the government or governors … The military council has to hand over power as soon as possible, and forming a new parliament is the first step towards this goal.”
Wahid Abdel Meguid, deputy director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and head of the coordinating committee of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt – an electoral coalition headed by the Freedom and Justice Party – said: “The Brotherhood does not dominate the alliance. The joint candidacy lists consist of the finest candidates that shall lead Egypt to a better future.”
Nonetheless, it is widely foreseen that the Freedom and Justice Party will secure the lion’s share of parliamentary seats this year, given that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organised power on the political landscape in post-revolution Egypt.
The event in Boulaq Aboul-Ela was open to all to attend. The party said it would hold many similar conferences in the near future.