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No longer the opposition
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 17 - 07 - 2013

Following a lengthy, four-hour meeting at Egypt's oldest liberal party, the Wafd, on Saturday, leaders of the National Salvation Front (NSF) said they decided to continue working together, even though key figures in the alliance of liberal and leftist parties that led the opposition against ousted president Mohamed Morsi have taken several senior government positions.
Former NSF coordinator-general and leader of the Dostour Party, Mohamed Al-Baradei, is now Egypt's vice president for international relations; Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi and Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaaeddin both are members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), a key party in the NSF. Ministries of trade and industry and social security went to two former secretary-generals of the NSF, Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour and Ahmed Al-Boraai respectively.
Shortly before the meeting at the Wafd, speculation was rife that the NSF would be dissolved, or perhaps change its name after its main goal of removing Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood from power following massive popular protests on 30 June, and drawing up a roadmap for early presidential elections, had been achieved. With 11 political parties that belong to different ideologies, two former presidential candidates, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, and eight prominent opposition figures of various backgrounds, the only common agenda the NSF leaders agreed on was the need to build “a civil, modern, just and democratic state,” NSF leaders reiterated.
The NSF was formed on the same day Morsi issued his infamous constitutional declaration on 22 November 2012, giving himself unprecedented, expanded powers to issue decrees that cannot be appealed in courts, illegally appointed a prosecutor-general, and provided immunity to the final draft of the constitution written by a100-member Constituent Assembly that was dominated by the Brotherhood and its supporters.
That was the breaking point in the complicated relationship between the secular opposition in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, deeply dividing the country and starting waves of protests and confrontation between the two sides. The NSF said that Morsi's constitutional declaration, his constant rejection at meeting opposition demands to form a capable, efficient government instead of depending on Muslim Brotherhood loyalists alone, and failure to approve a fair and free election law, left them no choice but to demand his ouster and early presidential elections.
Despite many ups and downs, a few public disagreements among its leaders, the NSF alliance largely managed to stay intact, presenting itself as the main opposition group to the Brotherhood, both locally and internationally.
Leader of the Socialist Popular Alliance Abdel-Ghaffar Shokr said the NSF leaders agreed they had to continue working together in order to achieve three main goals, after Morsi's removal. He noted that the NSF might even consider expanding its membership to include other trade unions, professional syndicates and associations that share its goals.
“We decided to continue working together in order to provide support for the new order that the Egyptian people chose following the revolutionary wave of 30 June,” Shokr told Al-Ahram Weekly. “We can clearly see that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders have decided to terrorise the Egyptian people, instigating and inciting violence all over the country, particularly in Sinai, openly calling for mutiny within the Armed Forces, and appealing for outside intervention to reinstate Morsi, or they would turn the country into a second Syria. We have to stay together as the NSF to counter this distortion campaign by the Brotherhood, and to assure that we start working on the original goals of the 25 January, 2011 Revolution: Bread, Freedom and Social Justice,” Shokr added.
The NSF, like other groups opposing the Muslim Brotherhood, admit that Morsi won free and fair elections a year ago, but they said he had betrayed promises he made during his election campaign that he would become a president for all Egyptians and not for members of his political group alone. They vehemently reject describing the removal of Morsi on 3 July as a military coup and insist that Defence Minister General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi “took a decision to side with the majority of Egyptians who came out on 30 June and stayed in the streets until 3 July to demand Morsi's ouster and early presidential elections,” said Shehab Wagih, spokesman for the Free Egyptians Party, part of the NSF.
“Our national army sided with the people when they revolted against Mubarak two and a half years ago, and they sided with the people again on 30 June,” he added. “The claim that Morsi was in a different situation because he was elected is a fallacy. Many of the Egyptian people who elected Morsi came out to demand his ouster and early elections on 30 June, declaring loud and clear that we've had enough of his failed policies and the arrogance of his Brotherhood group,” Wagih added.
According to Shokr, the NSF parties will also need to continue coordination as an alliance that supports a modern, civilian state, to make sure that an entirely new constitution would be drafted, and not simply amending the now suspended constitution that was written in record time by the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamic groups seven months ago. The NSF had already expressed reservations over the interim constitutional declaration that was adopted late last week by Interim President Adli Mansour.
In a lengthy memo that was delivered to Mansour, the NSF said it was unhappy with Article 1 in the new declaration that was clearly aimed at satisfying the Salafist Nour Party. That article did not only reiterate a long standing clause in Egypt's constitution since 1980 that “Islamic Sharia [law] is the main source of legislation” but also included what liberal and leftists see as a narrow definition of Islamic Sharia that political Islamist groups under Morsi insisted on in including as part of their plan to establish an Islamic state in Egypt (Article 219).
The Nour's participation in the 3 July meeting in which a new roadmap was announced, and attended by Defence Minister Al-Sisi, Al-Baradei, grand imam of Al-Azhar, the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, leaders of the youth movement Tamarod, and women representatives, was seen as vital to deny claims that the Muslim Brotherhood was the only influential political group in Egypt. Detained Muslim Brotherhood leader and former parliament speaker Saad Al-Katatni refused to take part in that meeting because he considered Morsi's removal a “military coup”.
The Nour Party won nearly 20 per cent of parliament seats in elections held in December 2011, but it has been hesitant about joining Al-Beblawi's new cabinet after members of other political Islamist groups sharply attacked its leaders, particularly after new arrest warrants were issued against Brotherhood figures, and the closure of so-called “religious” television channels, seen mainly as propaganda outlets in which direct calls for violence against Morsi opponents, including Egypt's Christians, were made.
Shokr said if the NSF managed to provide support to restore calm and stability according to the new 3 July roadmap, and succeeded in drafting a new constitution, the parties under its umbrella would also need to work jointly on a fair and free election law. “We never demanded the exclusion of Islamists, and always fought for their right to exist as political parties,” Shokr said. “If we are going to compete against Islamists in upcoming elections, both parliament and presidential according to the roadmap, so, we definitely need to work and coordinate together as a front that includes civilian parties,” he added. “But the priority now is for restoring order and agreeing on a new constitution,” Shokr clarified.
Facing Muslim Brotherhood charges that they were simply being used as a front to cover up the return of Mubarak's regime, the NSF said in a statement on 11 July that they insisted that Al-Biblawi's “new government must be made up from figures who belong to the 25 January Revolution, and who are known for their credible stands in support of the revolution since it started.” This means a clear break from the Mubarak regime, according to Ahmed Bahaa Shaaban, leader of the Socialist Party. “We were at the forefront of the 25 Revolution against Mubarak, and there is no way we would allow the old, corrupt order to make a comeback.”
Shaaban also rejected accusations by the Brotherhood that the NSF had been silent, and failed to speak out against the tragic killing of 57 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in bloody clashes with the army the front of the army's Republican Guard on 8 July. He noted that the NSF's 11 July statement called for the “immediate activation of the judicial investigation committee that was formed by President Mansour to carry out an independent and transparent investigation to determine the perpetrators, and those responsible, and they must be held accountable.”
While there is no doubt that the NSF has been largely silent on the case of closing down five television channels that belonged to the Brotherhood and other political Islamist groups, due to what they consider to be hate speeches aired by these channels, the NSF's last statement demanded that “the closure of any media outlet should be based on a judicial, and not administrative, decision, in order to protect public freedoms and to avoid any exceptional measures.”
This week, the NSF will have to decide who is going to be its new coordinator and secretary-general after Al-Baradei became vice president, and Abdel-Nour, trade minister. That's likely to be the first major test in the post-Morsi era — to judge the cohesion of the group and the ability of its key parties, and competing prominent figures, to work together.


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