By Yasmine Saleh / Reuters
CAIRO: Suppressed for decades, secular Egyptians have finally got their chance to enter politics but are worried they will be steam-rollered by Islamists and remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.
Activists in Egypt, who united to overthrow Mubarak, are setting about forming new political parties, saying they are concerned that elections expected in June could hand power to the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood or the former ruling NDP.
The military rulers, who took over after the downfall of Mubarak on Feb. 11 after an 18-day uprising that shook the Middle East, have promised to hold a referendum on constitutional change prior to elections mid-year.
Some politicians, however, believe the timetable is too quick giving people not already organized into political parties too little time to sort out strategies and policies.
“New political movements are attempts to stop the danger of the transitional period letting remnants of the old regime, businessmen or the Muslim Brotherhood steal power,” political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah, researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies said, adding:
“Given the short transition time and a poor economy, they are the only ones who can finance election campaigns.”
Several new political parties look set to be registered alongside older groupings once the law is changed ahead of the polls which Egyptians hope will bring democracy to the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Gamila Ismail, an opposition politician and activist, said she was joining two new political movements that will launch soon and plans to form a political party.
“I think for the coming period, opposition groups have to all be members of one big coalition to be able to win seats in the coming elections and stop NDP members or the Brotherhood from taking sole control of power,” she said.
“We all have fears that some of the old members of the party will rise and seize powers whether through the old party or by forming a new one,” said Gamila, who lost against an NDP candidate in the 2010 vote, branding that poll unfair.
The Muslim Brotherhood survived years of suppression by Mubarak’s administration to emerge as the country’s best organized political organization.
While the NDP is widely associated with Mubarak’s rule, the businessmen and local dignitaries who made up its ranks still have local presence and the money and political know-how to get back into politics.
There has also been concern in the international community that the military timeframe for elections might be too short.
“I hear an ambition to have rapid elections so that popular will can be expressed, on the other hand, I hear that in order to do that properly, we need time, and I think that is a dilemma that should be given real consideration, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told Reuters in Cairo.
Ismail also said she wants to form a political party that would include Egyptians living abroad. “There are about 8.5 million Egyptians living abroad who I think are very important to Egypt in the coming period,” she said.
“I plan to run in the coming parliament election,” she said.
On Tuesday, there was an announcement of a new political group called “The Egyptian Movement for Transitional Justice.”
“The movement will preserve the demands of social justice and make sure they will be achieved though the transition period,” the movement’s founder Naser Amin told Reuters.
Amin, who is an activist and head of the Cairo-based Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary, held a news conference on Tuesday to announce the movement, in which he said:
“The movement has five requests. Pursuing corruption from the Mubarak era, reforming arms of government, compensating people who suffered during the last regime, knowing the truth about what happened in the last 30 years and remembering those who sacrificed their lives in the revolution.”
Amin said: “We have three top institutions that we want to start with they are: police that were carrying out crimes, Egypt’s media that was a propaganda tool, and the judiciary that could have prevented crime but did nothing.”