Egypt’s opposition unites against common foe

Egypt’s opposition unites against common foe

The music blared in the early evening near the al-Ghad party headquarters on Wednesday. Onlookers constantly peered up at the second floor balcony, where a large television and speakers showed speaker after speaker delivering emotional diatribes against President Hosni Mubarak, his son Gamal and the ruling National Democratic Party. It will be remembered as the turning point in the fight against succession in Egypt, or like its numerous sister conferences and announcements in recent years against hereditary rule in Egypt, it will be forgotten.

“If I wanted to have hereditary power, I would go to Syria where it happens,” said Amr Mansour, one of the some 70 people who stopped in downtown’s Talaat Harb square to view and listen to the country’s opposition leaders come together to form Egypt’s first unified opposition to Gamal Mubarak taking power after his father leaves office.

Inside the party headquarters, it was a media frenzy. When leading opposition figure and former al-Ghad chief Ayman Nour went to the podium to inaugurate the conference, microphone upon microphone was shoved in his face, creating the semblance that something big was happening. Nour, who spearheaded bringing Egypt’s most prominent political groups, parties and intellectuals together to launch the did-eltawrees, or “against the bequeathal of power,” was first to speak, talking of the importance of the opposition to work as one in creating a new and open Egypt.

“This is not a personal battle against Gamal Mubarak, but a battle against this political system,” said Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University.

“There is no hope for real development, or just distribution of wealth, if the Egyptian people cannot choose their own democratic regime,” he told the some 100 attending the launch, mainly journalists.

Nour is hopeful that the consortium of opposition political forces, including the popular Muslim Brotherhood, will create a new country that gives the power “back to the people.”

He said on the sidelines that “this is our best chance to have our country where people make the decisions and not the few leaders. We don’t want Gamal to be president because it is not good for the country to have this kind of succession.”

President Mubarak, 81, is running on near empty. His age has caught up with him and most observers have looked to his younger son, Gamal, to take the mantle when his father retires. The next presidential election is scheduled for 2011, and although no official announcement of a candidate has been made, the opposition is not taking any chances.

“Our goal here is to fight a common cause and create a means for change and proper government to occur,” said Mohamed Abdel Qudous on the sidelines of the anti-Gamal launch. He is also a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure and has earned the respect of his fellow opposition figures for his efforts in creating modes for free speech at the Journalists Syndicate.

“We want everyone to feel that they have justice, that they have a voice,” said former MP Mohammed Anwar al-Sadat and son of late president Anwar al-Sadat.

Abdel Halim Qandeel, the head of the Kefaya (Enough) movement, gave the most fervent speech, leaving onlookers on the street wondering what the future will be for them.

“In the end it has to be about Egypt, but even as these opposition leaders come together and give this conference, will it change anything?” asked one Egyptian onlooker. “I hope it does, but it will probably just mean the government will move to another route. In the end, the question is, can they get something accomplished?”