By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: “No constitution under military rule” and “Friday of self-determination” will be the banners raised by political parties and movements — who are not in consensus — on Friday in Tahrir Square, which will also see supporters of presidential hopeful Hazem Abu Ismail protesting his disqualification.
The different banners for the same demonstration reflect a rift between the Islamists that control a parliamentary majority and other civil and liberal groups that have maintained the momentum of street action.
“We call on everyone to head to the squares and streets of Egypt on Friday, April 20 to protect their revolution and continue it under the slogan of ‘No constitution under military rule,’” said a statement signed by 12 political parties, groups and movements.
This coalition of political powers include Masrena Movement, April Sixth Youth Movement, Youth for Freedom and Justice, Our Rights Movement, the National Association for Change and the Revolution Youth Coalition. It also includes Al Tayyar Al Masry, Al-Wasat, the People’s Socialist Coalition, the Egyptian Social Democratic, Al-Adl and the Egypt Freedom Parties.
Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi reportedly said in a meeting early this week with political parties that the election will not be held before a new constitution is drafted to set the authorities of the president. Other politicians who attended the meeting have since said that it was a suggestion not a decision.
Members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood will be demonstrating under the “self-determination” banner.
“We are going down to demonstrate against the nomination of remnants of the old regime,” said Mahmoud Ghozlan, official spokesperson of the group. “The Egyptian people will not abandon the revolution and will not be silent about attempts to undermine it, calling on all to unite,” he added.
Islamist called for and dominated demonstrations last Friday. They protested the nominations of figures of the old regime in the presidential election. On Tuesday, Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief and last vice president for Hosni Mubarak who entered the race right before the registration deadline, was disqualified.
The decision by the election committee did little to soothe Islamists’ fears. Together with Suleiman, the Brotherhood’s top candidate Khairat Al-Shater and ultraconservative Salafi candidate Hazem Abu Ismail were also disqualified.
But prior to Tuesday’s eliminations, the Brotherhood-led parliament approved a bill that would exclude figures of the old regime from political participation.
Ghozlan called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to approve the bill in order to prevent members of Mubarak’s corrupt regime from practicing politics. The ruling military council has reportedly referred the bill to the constitutional court.
The development seems to be a u-turn on earlier speculation of a deal between the Brotherhood and the SCAF. A recent spat of fiery statements culminated on Wednesday’s with Al-Shater saying the generals don’t want to cede power.
Supporters of Abu Ismail will also be directing their chants to the presidential election, specifically to Article 28 of the constitutional declaration that gives the Presidential Election Committee’s (PEC) decisions legal immunity against appeals.
“As a campaign, we have put our operation on halt. However, Sheikh Hazem has announced that he is going to Tahrir and his supporters will most likely join him but as a campaign we will not,” said Talal Mujahed, campaign member.
A number of Abu Ismail’s supporters have been protesting in front of the PEC’s headquarters in Heliopolis since the committee said it proved his mother held the US citizenship and consequently eliminated him from the race.
Protesters who have been subject to deadly crackdowns over the past six months, including during the parliamentary elections, say they were abandoned by the Islamists, specifically the Brotherhood. They claim the group only went back to the streets when its political interests were in jeopardy.
That was preceded by the walkout of liberals and representatives of judicial and religious institutions from an assembly tasked with drafting the new constitution. They were protesting the Islamists’ domination of the panel, which was later dissolved by a court order, opening the door for new negotiations on criteria for choosing the members of the assembly.
The political powers protesting under the “No constitution under military rule” banner have issued the “national powers to protect the revolution document” in which they listed five main objectives.
On top of the list is putting on hold all procedures related to drafting the constitution until after the presidential election. The signatories also stressed the concept of “a revolution of the square and the parliament” to press for cooperation in the forming the Constituent Assembly to be representative of all segments of society.
They also called for one presidential candidate who represents the revolution in order to avoid “splitting the votes” and monitoring the election to prevent rigging. The document also stressed the importance of putting figures of the ousted regime on trial and purging state institutions from corruption.
They said they will form a revolutionary front which will be working on the ground until the end of the transition period and handing over power to elected civilians.