Nov 13, 2005 7:31 pm


Mubarak and cronies are playing hardball. They are going to use the upcoming Egyptian parliamentary elections to demonstrate the validity of their argument that after them, the Muslim Brotherhood. This assumption became too shaky for comfort when despite constant harrasment, trumped up criminal charges and imprisonment, Ayman Nour came in a surprising second in the presidential elections. Mona El-Nahhas explains:

When Nour placed second to President Hosni Mubarak in last month's presidential elections, there was much talk about the possibility of the year-old Ghad Party leading the opposition. Today, that scenario seems far-fetched. In fact, Nour himself seems to realise just how difficult the situation is, and has dropped much of his bravado of yore. His enthusiasm and determination have been transformed into bitterness and disappointment."

Why? Because"nothing about the Ghad (Nour's) Party's future is clear, other than that there will continue to be a lot of obstacles in its path, all of which is sure to further weaken it." It is a small wonder that the interview with Nour is called Attacked from all sides.

But that is not all. At the very same time that everything is done to weaken Nour, nothing is done to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from making a strong showing in the upcoming elections. Nour is derided for possible connections with"foreign elements" while the MB openly acknowledges that it is"protected" by international interest in the elections. Indeed, Mubarak's NDP party have worked out a seat division with the Muslim Brotherhood:

The Muslim Brotherhood is allowed to flaunt its once-taboo slogan, none of your members have been arrested, your candidates are promoting themselves freely and the state-run media no longer automatically refers to you as"outlawed". What is going on?

Let me talk about the general atmosphere and our reading of the political scene. There is the NDP, the ruling party, which is contesting the elections in all 222 constituencies; it is trying to win a two-thirds majority at least. Then there are the political parties which recently formed the United National Front for Change. The front was faced with many difficulties, largely because of the lack of time in which to properly coordinate ahead of the elections. And then there are the marginal parties.

The MB represents the strongest social and political currents in Egypt. It has an organisational structure, institutions and presence on the street. We could have fielded 444 candidates like the NDP, but we preferred to keep the number at 150. They are spread across as many constituencies as possible, approximately one-third of the parliamentary seats.

So are you leaving some constituencies uncontested for the NDP candidate?

We do leave some constituencies uncontested when the NDP candidate is a symbol like [parliamentary speaker] Fathi Sorour or [chief of the presidential staff] Zakariya Azmi, but this is not a hard and fast rule. The late [Supreme Guide] Maamoun El-Hodeibi, for example, ran against [then Minister of Social Affairs] Amal Othman in Doqqi and in this round Hazem Ismail is running against her.

We are in fact coordinating with the front and with other political forces, though not, of course, with the NDP.

We are talking about a climate that's not only different from 2000, but different from last year. There is a lot of criticism of the president, his family and the establishment, something that has never happened before. To have more than one candidate run for the presidency -- it was a charade of course -- but nine candidates competing against the president, it is a step forward.

Keep reading. It is more than revolting. The people of the region know all about the unholy alliance between Islamist totalitarianism and Arab dictatorship. Unfortunately, the Western media and expert analysis (for whatever reason) helps to perpetuate this reality.

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