’The taboos are broken’
HEADING:The Egyptian Movement for Change tells Amira Howeidy there can be no
QUOTES FROM TEXT:
" ’You are the agents, we are the patriots -- we are the Egyptians.’ "
"published the draft version of the interview before it was edited by the
"The pro-Mubarac NDP demonstrations ... ’consist of thugs and criminals’
intent on ’harassing Kafaya’s peaceful activities’. "
" ’The amended article’s final form is unacceptable and was tailored for
the president’ "
Friday 13 May, the day on which the Egyptian Judges’ Club held an
extraordinary meeting to determine their position on supervising September’s
presidential and October’s parliamentary elections, was Egypt’s day, says
the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kifaya). A widely disseminated Kifaya
invitation urged supporters to "rally" in front of the Press Syndicate in
solidarity with the judges.
Predictably, the scene in Abdel-Khaleq Tharwat Street, where the Bar
Association, Press Syndicate and Judges’ Club are located, resembled a
military base. Demonstrations remain prohibited under the 24- year-old
emergency law unless, of course, you are a young man prepared to shout "
mesh kifaya " (not enough) and "Hosni! Hosni!" to the joyful beat of drums.
For it was young men, many in their teens, who formed the bulk of
demonstrators on Friday, gathering around the steps of the Press Syndicate,
their movements directed by police officers ... were joined by hundreds of
Inside the adjacent Bar Association less than 200 Kifaya activists attended
a conference in solidarity with the judges while others, sitting in the
garden that overlooks the street, just stared at the pro-Mubarak
demonstration which moved towards them.
"Who are you and who are we?" screamed the young men. "You are the agents,
we are the patriots -- we are the Egyptians."
. . .
The pro-Mubarak demonstration effectively sealed off the Press Syndicate
though a handful of Kifaya supporters did make it to the roof where they
spread yellow banners to face the Judges’ Club. "Egypt’s judges! You are
By the end of the day reform activists were elated by the judges’ unanimous
decision to boycott the coming elections unless their demands for full
judicial supervision are met. ... The following day the daily Arabic
Al-Ahram appeared with headlines based on an interview ... Mubarak had
given to the Kuwaiti-based Al-Siyasa newspaper.
"What Kifaya does is paid for... I could have organised paid demonstrations
to shout ’not enough’," .... And ... the president was quoted as saying
that following the amendment of Article 76 of the constitution his eldest
son Gamal -- chairman of the NDP’s Policies Secretariat -- had the right to
stand in elections.
The shock felt by advocates of reform, who take credit for thwarting efforts
to promote Gamal Mubarak as his father’s successor, was hardly mitigated by
the presidency issuing a statement the same day saying that Mubarak had been
misquoted in Al-Ahram ’s version of the interview. The statement pointed to
"accurate" versions published in Al-Siyasa and the Egyptian Akhbar Al-Youm
which made no mention of either Kifaya or Gamal Mubarak. While Al-Ahram
remained silent Al-Siyasa ’s editor, who conducted the interview with
Mubarak, told the Emirates- based Al-Khaleej on Monday that Al- Ahram had
published the draft version of the interview before it was edited by the
Kifaya responded ... rejecting the allegations of foreign funding. Kifaya
is a "purely nationalist movement based on voluntary work and categorically
rejects foreign funding"... The pro-Mubarak NDP demonstrations, it
continued, "consist of thugs and criminals" intent on "harassing Kifaya’s
Kifaya threatened legal action against those who "deliberately attempt to
tarnish the movement’s reputation". Whether Kifaya will proceed with its
threat remained unclear yesterday.
Kifaya spokesman Abdel-Halim Qandil was less disturbed than might be
expected by the president’s accusations.
"We’re not worried at all ... . Not only do we not accept foreign funding
and foreign intervention -- unlike the government which is the biggest
recipient of foreign aid -- members of our movement include patriotic and
nationalist public figures that are above any of this, and the people know
Nasser Amin, director of the Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary,
part of a rights group alliance that has issued its own reform plans, finds
Mubarak’s reference to Gamal "very worrying". It seems ... we might witness
a re- enactment of the Syrian scenario".
The interview did not, however, surprise Aida Seif El-Dawla of the Popular
Campaign for Change. The movement’s slogan, she reminded the Weekly, "has
never changed. It remains no to extension, no to hereditary succession,
though now we have added no to militarisation, just in case Mubarak thinks
of appointing Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman as vice- president".
... Kifaya, for one, is more interested in promoting what it calls
"political disobedience" than rebutting accusations levelled against it.
According to Qandil, Kifaya wants the political class to boycott the 25 May
referendum approving the amendment of Article 76 as well as the September
"What is built on illegitimacy is illegitimate. The amended article’s final
form is unacceptable and was tailored for the president. It is not genuine
and the same applies to the presidential elections. It’s all fraud and we
want the political class to expose that by boycotting it."
Kifaya has discussed its strategy with opposition groups, including the
outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. "The first stage", says Qandil, "will be to
encourage civil disobedience, which is easier said than done."
The doing, though, may well be becoming easier. As Seif El-Dawla points out,
more and more people are expressing dissent in their respective fields.
There are University Teachers for Change, Lawyers for Change, Engineers
against Sequestration. And now the Judges’ Club has decided to boycott the
elections should their demands not be met.
"Look around you," she says, "and you’ll see that the number of groups
demanding change is increasing. It is true that the police prevent people
from joining our demonstrations, but if our influence is measured by the
number of demonstrators only, how do you explain all the groups demanding
change that surface every day?"
Egypt has changed, argues Qandil, "and we can’t go back, no one can undo
where we are now. The taboos have been broken."/
. . .
+++AL-AHRAM WEEKLY 19-25 May ’05:"NDP reacts cooly to boycott call"
HEADING:"The decision by three major opposition parties and the Muslim
Brotherhood to boycott the 25 May referendum met with a lukewarm reaction
from the NDP, reports Gamal Essam El-Din"
QUOTES FROM TEXT:
"opposition ... over political reform escalated ... with three
opposition parties calling ... for a boycott on the 25 May
referendum on the amendment of Article 76 of the constitution"
" ’the insistance of the ruling National Democratic Party on killing any
hopes that might have been borne of ... Mubarak’s 26
February proposal to amend Article 76 of the constitution.’ "
"The three parties also announced an end to their participation in
national dialogue meetings."
"The NDP ... mobilising the state media in favour of the referendum."
The face-off between the NDP and opposition forces over political reform
escalated this week with three opposition parties calling ... for a boycott
of the 25 May referendum on the amendment of Article 76 of the constitution.
The amendment, rubber stamped by the NDP-dominated People’s Assembly on 10
May, makes it all but impossible for independent candidates to run in the
forthcoming presidential elections, and restricts official parties’ chances
of fielding a candidate in 2011.
... the three main opposition parties -- the liberal- oriented Al-Wafd, the
leftist Tagammu and the Pan-Arabist Nasserist -- made a rare show of unity.
They condemned "the insistence of the ruling National Democratic Party on
killing any hopes that might have been borne of ... Mubarak’s 26 February
proposal to amend Article 76 of the constitution".
A joint-statement, read by Rifaat El- Said, chairman of the Tagammu, said
the call for a boycott had been prompted not only by the restrictions on
candidates contained in the amendment but also because it opens a door wide
to the manipulation of parliamentary elections in favour of the ruling
party....The three parties also announced an end to their participation in
national dialogue meetings. The dialogue, they said, originally intended to
foster consensus over political reform, had turned into a farce.
The phrasing of the referendum ballot also came in for heavy criticism.
"The referendum," said El-Said "should ask voters whether they agree to the
amendment passed by the People’s Assembly rather than simply ask them
whether they agree to Article 76 of the constitution being amended."
"All Egypt agrees to the amending of Article 76 in principle. What people
object to is the way in which the People’s Assembly have made the amendment
The boycott call was supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. An hour before the
beginning of the opposition meeting the Brotherhood issued a statement
declaring its own boycott. ....
AFP reported the group was forced to make a separate announcement after the
secular Tagammu opposed the inclusion in the joint statement.
Diaa Rashwan, a researcher at Al- Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic
Studies, told Al-Ahram Weekly the Brotherhood boycott was widely
"The restrictions on candidacy," said Rashwan, "appear to particularly
target the Brotherhood’s hopes of fielding a presidential candidate."
Calls for a boycott were first voiced by Kifaya, the Egyptian Movement for
Change. George Ishak, the movement’s coordinator, said Kifaya’s reaction to
the amendment will not be confined to a boycott call.
"We aim to organise a campaign of civil disobedience prior to both the 25
May referendum and presidential elections next March," Ishak told the
. . .
Calls for a boycott cannot be making Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s current
visit to the US any easier, given that the aim of the trip is to ease
tensions between Egypt and America over the progress of political reform.
Hardly surprising, then, that the NDP quickly swung into damage limitation
mode. Safwat El-Sherif, NDP secretary-general and chairman of the Shura
Council, declared "to those who claim the referendum day will be a funeral
day, I say it will be a day of national honour". Addressing a Cairo rally of
NDP junior leaders on Tuesday, El-Sherif argued that "the call for a boycott
reflects a negative attitude".
The NDP made public a series of initiatives aimed at absorbing any negative
impact that might be caused by the opposition’s boycott call. These include
organising rallies in support of the 25 May referendum and next September’s
presidential election and mobilising the state media in favour of the