Liberals, Islamists pact might be over in Egypt

Egypt’s liberal party Wafd has broken off an electoral alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, but has denied that the decision is ideologically motivated.
An Egyptian protester shouts slogans in Tahrir Square in this file photo. Egypt’s liberal Wafd party declares that the party breaks of the poll alliance with the Brotherhood. AFP photo

An Egyptian protester shouts slogans in Tahrir Square in this file photo. Egypt’s liberal Wafd party declares that the party breaks of the poll alliance with the Brotherhood. AFP photo

Egypt’s leading liberal party Wafd has scrapped an electoral alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood because it wants to field more candidates than the agreement would have allowed, according to a senior Wafd official.

Essam Sheha, a leading member of Wafd’s higher committee, said he had spoken with other committee members on Oct. 3 and learned that they remained opposed to any coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood. “The issue of coordinating with other liberal parties remains an option.”

Sheha denied that the decision to quit the electoral alliance was based on an ideological dispute. “We withdrew from the electoral alliance because we had a lot of candidates and the available places in the list weren’t enough,” he said, adding that cooperation with the Brotherhood would continue in other areas.

A meeting of the alliance will take place on Oct. 8, where the decision is expected to be officially announced.

Wahid Abdul Magid, president of the electoral coordinating committee, said Wafd members had insisted that the proportion of seats for which they compete should be the same as that of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political wing, which amounts to between 40 and 42 percent.

However, it would be very difficult for Wafd to compete for that number of seats while convincing the rest of the parties from the Democratic Coalition, which consists of 34 parties from across the political spectrum, to remain in the coalition, Reuters reported.

News that Wafd’s higher committee had voted to abandon the election pact was greeted enthusiastically by many members. Those who had frozen their membership to protest an alliance that they said was costing Wafd its credibility announced that they would reconsider their decision. The end of the alliance was also hailed by commentators who had never been able to understand what common ground could exist between an Islamist party and one that insisted on its commitment to a civil state, Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram reported.

Egyptian politics were dominated for decades by Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic Party which was widely accused of ballot stuffing, vote buying and intimidation. The Brotherhood was banned from formal politics but ran candidates as independents. The army generals now ruling the country have pledged a transition to democracy and the elections will test whether the political forces unleashed by Mubarak’s overthrow will cooperate enough to allow for stable government. Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, said Oct. 6 that the country was experiencing a critical period, particularly on the security and economic fronts, and called for national unity to achieve a democratic state under civilian rule, according to the Associated Press.

Tensions have emerged between liberals and Islamists over Egypt’s planned new constitution to be drafted by a constituent assembly appointed by parliament. Wafd’s leadership has faced internal opposition from members and criticism from liberal groups over the alliance with the Brotherhood

TDN
Friday, October 7, 2011
CAIRO