Most political forces throw weight behind Egypt's 'Friday of One Demand'

Zeinab El Gundy , Thursday 17 Nov 2011

A brief glance at the post-revolutionary political forces expected to turn out - and those that will not - for tomorrow's planned Tahrir Square protest against the so-called 'supra-constitutional principles'

Tents already set up in Tahrir Square in preparation for Friday
Tents already set up in Tahrir Square in preparation for Friday's One Demand protests (photo by: Sara Raslan)

Thousands of protesters are expected to show up at Cairo's Tahrir Square and other public spaces across the country on Friday for a protest that has been planned for weeks. As usual, several names have been proposed for the event, the most popular of which appears to be “The Friday of the One Demand.”

The single demand on which all political parties seem to agree is that for the abrogation of the so-called "El-Salmi document," which contains government-proposed "supra-constitutional principles." Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Ali El-Selmi proposed the principles, which, critics say, will grant the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) supra-constitutional powers and put unfair conditions on the formation of a provisional assembly that will be mandated with drafting a new constitution.

While rejection of the supra-constitutional principles will represent a major plank of Friday's demonstration, protesters are also expected to call for the speedy transfer of power to an elected civilian authority and for presidential elections to be held by April of next year.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its recently-licensed political arm the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) will take part in Friday's protests, according to a press release issued on Wednesday. The MB will participate to express its rejection of the supra-constitutional principles in their current form.

The group has stressed that Friday’s protest will not be the last, but rather the first, against the proposed principles. According to sources, the MB has called on its members living in and around Cairo to camp out at Tahrir Square from Thursday evening.

The FJP-led Democratic Alliance, which includes several political parties, has likewise announced its support for Friday's protests. Wahid Abdel Magid, alliance spokesman and leading member of the liberal Wafd Party, told Ahram Online that talks between El-Salmi and alliance representatives about the supra-constitutional principles had reached a dead end.

Refuting rumours that it would not take part in Friday's protest, the Adl party also declared that it would in fact participate in the planned demonstration.

Party founder Mustafa El-Naggar told Ahram Online that the Friday protest was not only about the supra-constitutional principles, but also about a date for coming presidential elections and a timetable for handing power over to an elected civil authority. The Adl Party is demanding that the SCAF conduct presidential elections by April of next year.

The Wasat Party, meanwhile, has also announced its intention to join the Tahrir Square protest since requested amendments to the supra-constitutional principles have yet to be made. The Wasat Party is also demanding that the SCAF relinquish power by April of next year.

Potential presidential contender Ayman Nour has also said he would participate in Friday's protest, along with his Ghad El-Thawra Party, to protest the supra-constitutional principles.

The Salafist Nour Party, for its part, is not only going to participate in the protest, but is also organising an open-ended sit-in in Tahrir Square. Previously, the Nour Party had rejected the notion of Tarhir Square sit-ins.

The Salafist Front is also planning to participate in the protest, also to express its rejection of the proposed supra-constitutional principles. According to front spokesman Khaled Said, the front plans to share a stage in Tahrir Square with potential presidential candidate Hazem Abu Ismail, who has been a vocal critic of the supra-constitutional principles.

Abu Ismail has agreed with the 6 April youth movement (Ahmed Maher Front) to hold a series of protests every Friday, starting tomorrow, in an effort to protect the election process that will begin on 28 November.

The pro-democracy Kefaya movement also issued a statement on Thursday urging Egyptians to join Friday's protest.

Potential presidential candidate and former MB member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh also plans to participate in Friday's protest. “The goal of Friday’s protest isn't just to reject the supra-constitutional principles – because they have already been rejected – but to determine a date for the handover of executive power,” Aboul Fotouh declared via Twitter.

Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya has also announced its intention to participate in Friday's protest to register its opposition to the supra-constitutional principles – imposed on the public without a popular referendum – and to demand presidential elections by April of next year.

Al-Jamaa spokesman Essam Darabala told reporters that group members also plan to protest in Tahrir Square to demand the release of imprisoned group members.

Administrators of the "We are all Khaled Said" Facebook page, for their part, have called for a protest march after Friday prayers from Cairo's Mustafa Mahmoud Square to Tahrir. They will be voicing a single demand: to hold presidential elections soon after the parliamentary polls.

Another group of protesters, meanwhile, has announced plans to launch a hunger strike on Friday. Members of Egypt's “No to military trials” campaign announced plans to start a hunger strike in solidarity with civilians that have been hauled before military courts. Buthaina Kamel, Egypt's first female presidential candidate, has also declared her intention to join the hunger strike.

Some political parties, however, have criticised tomorrow's planned Tahrir Square demonstrations.  

The liberal Wafd Party, for one, has announced its rejection of Friday’s protests. In statements to the media, Wafd Party Secretary-General Fouda Badrawy said the country was in desperate need for stability during the current critical interim phase.

The liberal El-Masryeen El-Ahrar Party will also boycott Friday's protest, along with the Nasserist Karama Party. The latter has said it would boycott the protest because it had been "hijacked by other powers," in reference to Egypt's powerful Islamist forces.

The leftist Tagammu Party and the Egyptian Communist Party also both announced plans to boycott Friday's protest. However, a number of other leftist political groups, by contrast, including the Workers Democratic Party and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, said that they would, for their part, participate in the event.

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