Political powers set differences aside to participate in Friday protests

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By Heba Fahmy

CAIRO: Over 30 of Egypt’s political powers including the Muslim Brotherhood agreed to set differences aside and participate in the Tahrir protests on Friday, in a bid to save the revolution.

“The differences between Egypt’s political powers led to tensions and overshadowed more essential issues,” Mohamed Abbas, member of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution and the MB told Daily News Egypt.

“We need to save our revolution and unite to achieve its objectives, despite the differences we have as political powers,” Mohamed Farag, assistant secretary general of the Tagammu Party, told DNE.

Last month, the mass protests were originally planned to call for establishing a new constitution before the parliamentary elections, slated for September, on the Friday dubbed “The Constitution First.”

However, violent clashes that erupted between police forces and protesters last week and the recent release of officers charged of killing and injuring protesters on bail in Suez, pushed political powers to ignore their differences and focus on more pressing issues.

Although the political parties couldn’t agree on a new name for the mass protests some dubbing it, “The Revolution First,” others calling it, “The Friday of Persistence,” while April 6 called it “Egypt First…the Poor People First,” they agreed on specific demands.

These demands include detaining all officers being tried for killing the protesters and swiftly prosecuting them and government officials accused of the same charges, compensating the martyr’s families, ending the military prosecution of civilians, restructuring the interior ministry and ridding it of all its corrupt figures and setting a reasonable minimum wage.

These demands come in light of a court decision to uphold the release on bail of seven police officers charged with killing and injuring peaceful protester, rejecting an earlier request by the prosecutor general to revoke the decision.

The court order stirred the outrage of the hundreds of protesters on Wednesday, including martyrs’ families, who attempted to break into the Suez police directorate on El-Galaa Street, throwing rocks at the building.

At least 30 political parties and movements decided to participate in the mass protests including Al-Tagammu, Al-Wafd, the Democratic Front and the Free Egyptians parties , April 6 Youth Movement, the Coalition of Youth of the Revolution and Salafi youth groups.

However the Islamic group announced in a statement issued on Thursday that it will not participate in the mass protests to preserve “security and stability.”

“These mass protests might cause chaos at a time when the country needs security and stability,” Sheikh Safwat Abdel Gani, member in the group’s Shoura Council told DNE.

“I also believe that the objectives of this mass protest are unclear and not unanimous,” he added.

Open sit-in

The Coalition of Youth called on political powers not to raise any banners lobbying for a specific party or group during the Friday protests, in a charter published on its Facebook page dubbed the “Tahrir charter.”

They added that all political powers should unite, stay away from controversial issues, and put the nation’s interests before their own.

The political powers were torn on whether to hold an open sit-in in Tahrir Square until their demands are met.

While the April 6 Youth Movement confirmed that it would hold an open sit-in until the people’s demands are met, Farag said that “If at least 50,000 people participate in an open sit-in and agree on certain objectives, Al-Tagammu Party will participate as well and support the people.”

“An open sit-in can only be effective if its objectives are clear and a large number of people participate in it, like what occurred during the January 25 Revolution,” he added.

The Muslim Brotherhood

Former MP and prominent MB member Mohamed El-Beltagi said the group would not participate in an open sit-in.

The MB had retracted on Wednesday a previous statement refusing to participate in the mass protests, and decided to join in the call to save the revolution.

The statement justified the MB’s change of heart, saying that the group originally refused the protests that called for a new constitution, postponing the PA elections and electing a Presidential Council that would bring the country’s economy further back and hinder development.

However, the growing violence caused by thugs, the recent clashes that occurred and using the martyrs’ families to ignite chaos is what led to the MB’s final decision to participate, the statement added.

The clashes which erupted on June 28 and 29 in front of the interior ministry and in Tahrir Square left 1,114 injured, according to the Ministry of Health.

An official fact finding committee found that the clashes were premeditated by thugs.

The MB’s statement added that most of the political powers decided to relinquish their demand for establishing a new constitution before PA elections, encouraging the MB to participate in the mass protests.

However Farag disagreed saying that political powers stand by their call for a new constitution first, but they are merely setting it aside this Friday to deal with more pressing issues.

In March, the constitutional amendments were approved by a sweeping yes vote of 77.2 percent in a referendum. The amendments stated that a committee of legal experts assigned by the new elected PA would draft the new constitution.

With elections slated for September, many political parties, especially those formed in the past few months, said they wouldn’t be ready by this date. They added that only the Muslim Brotherhood and former members of the disbanded National Democratic Party had a chance of winning the majority of the seats.

This increased the rift between the MB and other political powers and ignited a war of words between the two sides.

Official response

The Cabinet responded to the call for mass protests by saying it will support the legitimate demands of the national forces and seek to achieve them by all means at such a critical phase when the nation and the revolution are “in jeopardy,” in a statement issued on Wednesday evening.

The caretaker government called on the national powers participating in the protests to maintain the peaceful nature adopted during the revolution, warning against possible chaos derived by counter forces.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health declared a state of alert at all emergency rooms at hospitals and ambulance departments nationwide to deal with any injuries that may occur during the protests.

Assistant Minister of Health for Political and Technical Affairs Abdel-Hamid Abaza said the ministry will deploy 40 fully equipped ambulances and three mobile surgical units near Tahrir comprising specialist medical teams.

Forty more ambulances will be located nearby as well, he added. –Additional Reporting by Marwa Al-A’sar.



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