By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei called on opposition groups to unite and boycott the upcoming 2011 presidential elections if they are not given guarantees that the elections will be free and fair.
In a video message from ElBaradei posted on his website on Tuesday, he described the “so-called” parliamentary elections that took place on Nov. 28 as a “tragedy” and as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The final results of the parliamentary elections showed that the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) swept the polls — winning 420 out of 508 People’s Assembly (PA) seats — while Al-Wafd won six seats, Al-Tagammu won five, and the Democratic Peace Party and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) each won one.
“It would’ve been better if the ruling NDP contested the elections by themselves,” ElBaradei stated. “But we still have a chance [to achieve change and reform].”
ElBaradei had initiated a call to all opposition groups to boycott the recent PA elections, as the government refused to give guarantees of free and fair elections and failed to comply with ElBaradei’s seven demands for change, which included annulling the emergency law and ensuring complete judicial supervision of the elections.
The MB — Egypt’s largest opposition group in the outgoing 2005 parliament — Al-Wafd, and Al-Tagammu ignored his calls and fielded candidates in the elections.
Following the first round of the PA elections, which left Al-Wafd with two seats and the MB with none, the two opposition groups announced their withdrawal from the runoff on Dec.5 amid wide accusations of fraud and vote rigging.
Al-Tagammu, however, contested in the runoff elections despite calls from within the party to withdraw. The party won a total of five seats in the overall elections, four of which were clinched during the runoffs.
“The Brotherhood and Al-Wafd’s withdrawal from the runoff elections proves the validity and strength of ElBaradei’s position and call to boycott the parliamentary elections,” Hossam Tammam, a researcher of Islamist movements, told Daily News Egypt.
ElBaradei praised the MB and Al-Wafd parties’ decision to withdraw from the runoffs.
“I hail the parties that withdrew from the runoff elections, because they refused to participate in the sham called [the government calls] democracy,” ElBaradei said.
“Egypt’s opposition powers must unite — including the MB and the Copts. Each one of us [is] a part of Egypt.”
ElBaradei added that “although there is a red line that can’t be crossed, every Egyptian — regardless of his religion, color or sex — should practice all his rights and duties.”
“After what happened in these elections from violations, rigging and violence, the opposition groups — including the MB — have no choice but to achieve a minimal degree of harmony and unity among them in order to have any [sort of] effect on the political arena and the current regime,” Nabil Abdel Fattah, a political analyst from Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies, told Daily News Egypt.
Abdel Fattah added that, normally, the unity and coalitions among Egypt’s opposition groups are “occasional” and “don’t usually last long.”
“The coalitions among Egypt’s opposition groups are usually a reaction [to a certain incident, such as the rigging of the PA elections],” said Abdel Fattah. “[These groups do not usually form] an effective coalition that can achieve true change and reform on the ground.”
However, Tammam stipulated that the MB is not likely to unite with other opposition parties to form a “historical national coalition” comprised of a variety of opposition groups with differing ideologies, because the MB puts the groups’ interests above anything else.
“When the MB decided to ignore ElBaradei’s call to boycott the parliamentary elections, they did that because they believed it was in the group’s best interest,” Tammam said. “And when [the MB] decided to withdraw before the run-offs, [that] was also in the group’s best interest. This position will not change.”
Abdel Fattah added that ElBaradei’s excessive traveling abroad and his speeches that address people through YouTube and his website are diminishing his position among the people and the opposition groups.
“[ElBaradie] is targeting the new generation, who usually use YouTube,” Abdel Fattah stated. “But with all due respect, the new generation doesn’t need ElBaradei. They already have groups like the April 6 Youth Movement that provide them with political reform speeches, [applying the political rhetoric in everyday life] instead of depending only on the virtual world.”
ElBaradei stated that opposition groups need to form a united front and that they must announce their boycott of the 2011 presidential elections if the government doesn’t give them any guarantees of free and transparent elections.
Abdel Fattah speculated that some opposition groups will follow ElBaradei’s call, while others will reject it — a repetition of what happened in the parliamentary elections.
“The NDP is capable of providing alternatives that represent renowned public figures which can contest against President Hosni Mubarak in the presidential elections, in an attempt to present to the world a real election battle,” Abdel Fattah stated.
“The Constitution might even be changed … to allow [for] the election of a vice president during the presidential elections [in order] to gain credibility [in the eyes of the people] after what happened in the parliamentary elections,” he added.
Tammam stated that the MB won’t have any positive role in the presidential elections.
“The presidential elections have always been a red-line for the MB … the group has never aspired to have a role in them,” Tammam said.
Mubarak, now 82 years old, has been in power since 1981. Article 76 of the Egyptian constitution set nearly impossible conditions for independent and opposition party candidates to run for the presidency.
According to Tammam, the constitution doesn’t allow the MB to contest in the presidential elections at all since they are considered a “forbidden group” in Egypt. Moreover, Tammam stated that even if they could contest, they would never be able to gain the requisite support of 250 legislative representatives, whether from the upper and lower houses of parliament or municipal councils, which are completely dominated by the NDP.
“The regime needs to understand that it’s our right to demonstrate peacefully for change, and it needs to understand that we will resort to civil disobedience if we have to,” said ElBaradei. “If we are not permitted to do so, the Egyptian people will have no choice but to resort to violence. But I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Abdel Fattah said that that overstatement from ElBaradei that shows his lack of knowledge of the Egyptian community.
“The only thing that could drive the Egyptian people towards violence is sectarian strife,” Abdel Fattah said.
“Change is [inevitable], but how soon that change will come is up to you,” ElBaradei said at the end of his speech.
“Change is coming, no matter how much the NDP is against it,” Abdel Fattah agreed. “The political stagnation that Egypt is suffering from now won’t last for long,”
“There’s a new generation rising that isn’t content with Egypt’s current situation, and [that] is well connected with the world through the internet,” Abdel Fattah added. “This group will not stand still.”