Egypt's liberal and socialist parties seek united front


EGYPTIAN LIBERAL and leftist parties scrambled yesterday to form a united front to counter the decision of the Muslim Brotherhood and secular Wafd to field a unified list of candidates for the parliamentary election scheduled for September.

Talat Fahmy, a founder member of the Popular Alliance Party, said the task of a united front would be to defend the secular character of the state, press for a new constitution and counter remnants of the former ruling National Democratic Party and Muslim fundamentalists.

The small divided leftist and liberal groupings fear that the combination of the Brotherhood, a veteran socio-political movement founded in 1928, and the Wafd, a liberal party formed in 1919, could pose a major challenge to parties emerging in the wake of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February. The Brotherhood and Wafd have invited other parties to join their list.

The National Association for Change has agreed with the Brotherhood that parliamentary elections should be held on the basis of proportional representation.

The two groups also decided to form committees to draft a new election law, draw up principles on which a new constitution should be based, and co-ordinate the poli- cies of factions during the election campaign. However, the association’s head, Mohamed ElBaradei, a presidential candidate, disagrees with the Brotherhood’s approach to the election. He insists the new constitution should be written ahead of the election.

The Brotherhood firmly backs the ruling military, which decided the timing of the election. It also supports the idea of a commission to draft the constitution which would be appointed by the new people’s assembly. The Brotherhood is determined to stick by the military, whose procedures received a 70 per cent approval rating from Egyptian voters in a March referendum.

Dr ElBaradei, leftists and liberals argue that secular parties will not have time to build constituencies before the election and that this would give unfair advantage to the Brotherhood, the Wafd and other established parties. Consequently, a new assembly would be unrepresentative, they say, and should not choose commissioners who will draft the constitution.

Meanwhile, the authorities have opened an investigation into the country’s most prominent journalist, Hassanein Heikal (88), who is accused by 45 former airforce officers of insulting the military. They have complained that Haikal dismissed the accomplishments of the armed forces during the 1973 war with Israel in an article published on May 13th in al-Ahram, the country’s semi-official daily.