Egypt: Ruling party conference ends with Brotherhood attacks

Egypt: Ruling party conference ends with Brotherhood attacks

 CAIRO: The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) ended its 6th annual three-day conference in Cairo on Monday, with a series of bashings at the Muslim Brotherhood. The conference, which had run under the title “Just For You,” included an opening speech from President Hosni Mubarak to a crowd of 2,500 NPD party members and media in a rare public display for the aging president.

The opening session of the conference began with a sharp attack against the Muslim Brotherhood, launched by Ahmed Ezz, Secretary of Organization for the National Part, and this theme continued throughout, with direct attacks aimed at the Islamic group.

Members of Parliament Mohamed Abdel Fatah Omar and Hazem Hamadi, both former police officers, demanded the government confiscate all funds of the Muslim Brotherhood, arguing that the group was banned by law, since 1945, and that the group continues to hold meetings in public and a number of media publish news about the organization.

Ironically, the government has been in “crackdown” mode since the Brotherhood won a surprising 88 seats in Parliament in 2005. A number of prominent leaders, including reform-minded Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Gamal Heshmat, remain in detention after months of court appearances.

Hamadi said during a special session on citizenship, democracy and human rights that taking action against the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef would lead to conflict and unnecessary reactions. He argued that if the government was to tackle the MB in Parliament it would end in “Muslim Brotherhood MP’s throwing shoes at their NDP opponents,” in reference to an incident last year when MB MP’s took off their shoes as a threat.

Mufid Shehab, Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, commented on the demands of the MPs at the conference, saying that “we will deal decisively at the next election with any prohibited activity of the group, particularly using campaign slogans with religious significance.”

This comes as speculation continues to ramp up over whether the government will call for new elections ahead of next fall’s scheduled vote in an effort to stem the growing popularity of the Brotherhood.

The Minister of Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils continued to say that “the ruling National Democratic Party in Egypt is studying a mechanism for dialogue with the opposition,” but ruling out that it would include dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful opposition group.

Shehab added that “any regulatory structured dialogue between institutions would be held with parties,” adding, “when I call on holding a meeting to discuss the issue of Parliamentary or Presidential elections on a partisan level, here I do only call for this meeting, or deal, with legitimate parties only.”

He argued that any citizen of Egypt “has the right to express his opinion and must be heard regardless of his orientation, but here we listen to any citizen, but we do not listen to him as a member of an illegal organization.

“I do not recognize the illegal organization, but members outside of this organization are citizens, for example, those representing the banned group, in the People’s Assembly in the Parliament have gained the confidence of the people they represent and are in the seats. My duty is to listen to those members and talk to them, but I deal with them as citizens,” the minister said.

Much media speculation had developed in recent months over the conference as Gamal Mubarak, President Hosni Mubarak’s son, was expected to speak during day two sessions. However, he did not address the possibility of him taking over for his father in the 2011 presidential vote, leaving more questions on the table.

**reporting by Mohamed Abdel Salam