Investigation into Egypt's opposition leaders abandoned

Mon, Dec 31, 2012, 00:00

An investigation into Egypt’s leading secular opposition leaders was dropped yesterday to encourage them to take part in a national dialogue proposed by President Mohamed Morsi.

Last week the country’s head prosecutor ordered an inquiry into accusations that National Salvation Front founders Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, former foreign minister Amr Moussa and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi had incited Egyptians to seek the overthrow of Mr Morsi.

In his address on Saturday to Egypt’s upper house of parliament, Mr Morsi reiterated his call for all the parties to unite to tackle poverty, unemployment, poor services, the slide in the value of the Egyptian currency, soaring public debt and a downgraded credit rating.

Mr Morsi is unlikely to receive the backing he requires. He and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he came, have been accused by secular opposition and ultra-conservative Muslim groups of focusing more on consolidating their hold on power than on Egypt’s ills. Mr Morsi is therefore likely to have to contend with opposition from fundamentalists as well as secularists.

Salafi alliance

Negotiations began last week for the establishment of an ultra-orthodox Salafi alliance that would challenge the Brotherhood in the election for the lower house of parliament, set for February.

Gamaa Islamiya (Islamic Group) spokesman Tarek El-Zomor said talks have included former head of the Salafi Noor (Dawn) party Emad AbdelGhafour and representatives of Salafi leader Hazem Abu Ismail, who seeks to impose Muslim Sharia law, relegate women to the home and cut trade ties with the West.

During the 2011-2012 parliamentary election campaigns, the Gamaa, once regarded as a terrorist organisation, was a member of the Democratic Alliance formed by the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice party.

Mr Abdel-Ghafour and 150 supporters have pulled out of the Noor party, established after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and formed a new party, al-Watan.

Al-Noor, the second-largest fundamentalist party after Freedom and Justice, did not join its Democratic Alliance but won strong representations in both houses of parliament. Mr Abdel-Ghafour’s defection could boost the proposed “Islamic Alliance” and weaken Noor.

Salafis have been displeased by the Brotherhood because it has not promoted rapid Islamisation. Salafis argue that the new constitution, adopted by referendum this month, does not fully enshrine Sharia as the law of the land or impose on Egypt’s diverse society conservative social and cultural practices advocated by Salafis.