Egyptian opposition, including banned Islamic group, unites for parliamentary elections
CAIRO, Egypt – Leaders from 10 of Egypt’s major opposition groups agreed to put aside their deep enmity for one another and join forces against President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party in next month’s parliamentary elections.Conspicuously missing from the National Front for Change that was formed late Saturday was Ayman Nour, head of the liberal al-Ghad party, who finished second behind Mubarak in the Sept. 7 presidential election and now claims to be the leader of the opposition.The National Front includes groups from across the political spectrum and will attempt to mesh organizations that have been deeply critical of each other, if not outright enemies, in an attempt to wrest control of parliament from the 77-year-old Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.Among those in the alliance, for example, are the leftist Tagammu party, a fierce critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, a long banned Islamist movement that is now an ally. Others signing on were the leftist Nasserites, the liberal Wafd party, the anti-Mubarak movement Kifaya (Enough) and such fledgling political groups as the Islamist al-Wasat and the left-wing al-Karama.After fierce political bargaining and over initial objections from Tagammu to the very presence of Brotherhood representatives at a meeting Saturday night, compromise was reached to form the coalition.”This is neither a concession by Tagammu or by the Brotherhood – different ideologies and differences still exist – but we are in a stage in which Egypt needs an end to the monopoly of the National Democratic Party,” said Hussein Abdel Razeq, secretary-general of Tagammu.The Brotherhood will maintain its own candidate list under the banner “Islam is the solution” but agreed to coordinate with other groups on getting out the anti-Mubarak vote.The Brotherhood, established 1928 but banned since 1954, is believed to be the largest Islamist opposition group in Egypt. It is highly organized and has remained a key player in Egyptian politics despite the ban and vilification in the state-run media.”Our candidates have already started moving across the country, but this doesn’t contradict our coordination with the rest of the front and its united list,” Mohammed Morsi, their leading lawmaker, told The Associated Press on Sunday.The Brotherhood held 15 seats in the outgoing parliament of 454 members, but those legislators were technically listed as independents because of the ban. Tagammu had six seats, Wafd four and the Nasserites one.Mubarak’s ruling coalition held about 388 seats. His party did not win an outright majority in the elections five years ago, but was joined by large numbers of sympathizers who were elected as independents.Under new rules, a party must hold at least 5 percent of parliament’s seats – or 23 – to have the right to field a candidate in the 2011 presidential election.