Many Voices United for Change – Egypt ’s Shadow Parliament

Many Voices United for Change – Egypt ’s Shadow Parliament

Egypt's controversial new parliament convened Monday, and it was filled almost entirely with members of the ruling party. It is expected that without any opposition to debate on legislation, parliament will rubber stamp anything President Mubarak and his party want including misappropriation of public land.

But the new parliament is also prompting the opposition to join forces as they have rarely done before and a number of former opposition parliamentarians have formed a parallel, or ‘popular’ People’s Assembly, saying that it is the true representative of the people. According to court orders issued in Egypt, the government’s parliament is illegal and the move to form the shadow parliament was motivated by the widespread fraud and voter intimidation that took place in this year’s parliamentary election that included the NDP obtaining more than 80% of seats.

The popular parliament will also include public figures widely known for their vehement criticism of the government. A number of opposition groups have endorsed the shadow parliament including the Muslim Brotherhood, Wafd, the Kefaya Movement and Dr El-Baradei’s National Association for Change (NAC).

Despite the wide endorsement, President Hosni Mubarak still voiced a sarcastic critique of the initiative, saying: “Let them have fun.” Such comments made by Mubarak further highlight the growing disconnection between him, his government and the Egyptian population – a gap that the new popular parliament is seeking to fill.

Sure that Mubarak takes the people and their choices lightly, the shadow parliament is confident, knowing that only the future can show whether this idea is worth the trouble.

Gaining media attention is important as the shadow parliament is also a statement and a reaction to the prevalent fraud and human rights abuses of the ruling regime and the media is able to cover public reaction and the formation and growth of the opposition.

Despite lack of representation of different segments of society and having no democratic mechanism to select members, as well as difficulty in mobilizing the people, the popular parliament is emerging from the ‘street level’ and is aware of the Egyptian people’s thoughts, ideas, frustrations and concerns, enjoying popular appeal.

Facebook is a meeting place for people supporting the initiative which is a last ditch attempt to secure positive change by peaceful means in a country that retains an iron grip on its illegitimate power, that rules without democracy, advocacy or genuine political dialogue.
Seeking to cast light on the illegitimate nature of the existing parliament and showing that Egypt does have experts who can save it, the shadow parliament seeks to solve the prevailing crisis in Egypt.

This kind of unified approach is what many Egyptians believe offers the only real hope for democratic reforms, especially if the unified movement can persuade Egypt 's key allies to pressure Mubarak as they did in 2005. For now at least, the shadow parliament is the other side of Egypt ’s political coin.