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Discursive divisions
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 24 - 04 - 2013

The National Salvation Front (NSF) has been beset by divisions and confusion in recent months. The latest chapter in the opposition bloc's increasingly troubled history opened last week as members argued over whether or not they should go ahead with a planned boycott of parliamentary elections.
The crisis began when the NSF issued a statement announcing it was preparing for elections to the House of Representatives, provoking an angry response from the Wafd Party, a member of the NSF. The Wafd said it would withdraw from the opposition grouping if they contested the poll.
Wafdists argue that after battling for months against the regime and having earlier decided to boycott any polls which would lend the regime legitimacy it was self-defeating to backtrack on that policy now.
The Wafd Party described participation as an “unrealistic concession” to the “Muslim Brotherhood regime which continues to detain activists and attack political parties and media”.
NSF spokesperson Khaled Dawoud insisted the Wafd Party had misinterpreted the bloc's statement which had been issued to remind the president and the Muslim Brotherhood of opposition demands while a new election law is being prepared.
“There is no change in the NSF position. We are not going to participate unless our conditions are met first,” said Dawoud.
He added that the statement had listed all necessary guarantees for fair and transparent election.
The Popular Current, another key member of the NSF, announced “the Popular Current and the NSF will boycott the elections if the Muslim Brotherhood continues to abuse its power by introducing a controversial electoral law” said spokesman Hossam Mounes.
The NSF has demanded the dismissal of the Morsi-appointed prosecutor-general, the appointment of a neutral cabinet to supervise the coming election process, and the elimination of articles in the election law which it says were included because they favour Islamist parties. They have also demanded that Morsi act on his promise to revise the constitution.
In its statement the NSF stressed that it will not participate in elections until the president agreed to offer real guarantees of electoral fairness and transparency.
“The front affirms its lack of trust in the Muslim Brotherhood's domination of the executive and legislative branches of state [which has led] to organising the elections and drafting election laws in favour of the Brotherhood.
“The election law fixed constituency boundaries in such a manner that hindered fair representation and which was advantageous to the Muslim Brotherhood, violating the recently ratified constitution that the Muslim Brotherhood itself forced on the people,” the statement said.
The statement went on to condemn the way the Brotherhood was seeking to extend its influence over the state by appointing its members to important posts, especially in local administration. The NSF said that the Brotherhood had adopted this strategy in preparation for the forging of election results.
“The front also rejects the continued presence of Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdallah after a court judged his appointment null and void. We reject him not only because of his lack of legitimacy but also because his presence decreases trust in the electoral process,” the statement continued.
Elections, originally scheduled to begin on 22 April, were suspended by an administrative court ruling. The court ruled that the Supreme Constitutional Court must review the new parliamentary elections law before the ballot is held. Voting for a new parliament is expected later this year, conditional on approval of a new election law.
Launched last November in the wake of Morsi's constitutional declaration granting himself provisional extra-judicial powers, the NSF brings together 14 opposition parties and many leading public figures. It includes Mohamed Al-Baradei, NSF secretary-general and leader of the Constitution Party, Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the Popular Current Party, and Amr Moussa, leader of the Conference Party.
Abdallah Helmi believes the NSF should prepare to contest in the coming election and in doing so offer the public an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I do not think the NSF has the luxury not to participate in the coming elections. Boycotting means political death. It will leave everything for the Muslim Brotherhood for four years for no reason,” he said.
The recent rift between NSF members is not the first. In April the NSF was divided over its leaders' meetings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Wafd Party and the Conference Party agreed with the government's stance that the loan was an urgent necessity while Sabahi expressed fears over the effects of any IMF dictated austerity package on the poor. He asked that borrowed funds be used to boost productivity without discontinuing subsidies on staple goods and energy.
In a statement issued after his meeting with the IMF delegation, Sabahi said: “I informed the delegation that we welcomed any unconditional support given to the Egyptian economy as long as it did not impose added burdens on the poor, workers, peasants and middle class who comprise the majority of the Egyptian population.”


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