Egyptian court rejects appeal for political recognition by 12 parties

An Egyptian court on Saturday rejected appeals by 12 political parties against the decision of a committee dominated by the country’s ruling party that denied them official recognition, judicial sources said.
They said the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the 12 groups fell short of meeting new requirements to set up political parties in Egypt, where the National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak dominates political life.

The rules require a party to obtain signatures from at least 1,000 founding members to gain recognition. At least 50 signatures should come from members in each of 10 provinces countrywide.
“This is a political ruling,” said Hamdeen Sabbahi, head of the Karama (Dignity) Party, one of the 12 groups.
“All that the government keeps saying about freedom is just slogans,” he told reporters.
The court said the groups could submit new applications to the Parties Committee, which is controlled by NDP, after fulfilling the new requirements.
Aboul Ela Madi, founder of Al Wasat (Centre) Party, said his group would submit a stronger application to gain recognition. Al Wasat has already been denied recognition several times.
Government critics and Opposition groups have repeatedly called on Mubarak to dissolve the Parties Committee, which they say is a tool NDP uses to maintain its firm grip on political participation.
“The government has for decades used the Political Parties Law to fix elections before they begin,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement released on Thursday.
“Egypt needs a new political parties law that respects Egyptians’ rights to form political parties and to vote for whoever they choose.”
In December, Mubarak proposed constitutional amendments, which he said would ease restrictions on Opposition parties to field candidates in presidential elections.
He said the proposed amendments would impose a ban on parties based on religion – a step which could enshrine restrictions on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s strongest Opposition group despite being officially banned since 1954.