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Egypt opposition fights 'dynastic rule'

The opposition leader Ayman Nour announces the formation of the Egyptian Campaign Against Tawreeth, or inheritance of power.

Ayman Nour, the Egyptian opposition leader, speaks at a press conference in Cairo yesterday.
Ayman Nour, the Egyptian opposition leader, speaks at a press conference in Cairo yesterday.

CAIRO // With nationalist songs blaring from his law firm's downtown Cairo offices, opposition leader Ayman Nour announced the formation of the Egyptian Campaign Against Tawreeth, or inheritance of power, at a press conference on Wednesday that was attended by opposition groups from across the political spectrum.

Mr Nour, 44, called for the campaign against succession on the 28th anniversary of Hosni Mubarak's presidency, amid widespread speculation that Gamal Mubarak, the son of the president, will be handed power before the scheduled presidential elections in 2011. "When President Mubarak was sworn in as a president on October 14, 1981, exactly 28 years ago, the participation of his son in the rule wasn't part of the oath; there is no Gamal in the constitution," Mr Nour said, as he stood in front of about 30 founders of the campaign.

The drive is using the slogan "Ma Yohkomsh", a slang phrase that loosely means "he shouldn't rule". "We are against being inherited like slaves under any name," the group wrote on its Facebook page. "Because we love Egypt, we are against it going back to being a family farm to be inherited by a person who is lacking political capabilities ... [whose main] qualification is that he just happens to be the president's son."

Three legislators from the Muslim Brotherhood movement also attended the press conference. The organisation is the strongest and largest opposition group in Egypt, although it is officially banned. Members of the Kefaya, or "Enough", political group also attended and are participating in Mr Nour's new campaign, apart from prominent leftists and intellectuals. Kefaya was the first group to protest against the succession of power and Mr Mubarak's rule in 2004.

In 28 years of his presidency, Mr Mubarak has never appointed a vice president, and speculation has been rife that his son would replace him after Gamal returned to Egypt seven years ago from London, where he was working as a banker. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2011, but there are fears that Mr Mubarak might step down before then and pass the presidency to his son. In an online video forum in August, Gamal refused to answer questions about the possibility of inheriting power from his father.

Mr Nour was released from prison in February after being sentenced in December 2005 to five years in jail for forging documents to procure a licence for his political party. He denied the charges and said they were politically motivated. He claimed that he was framed because he represents a viable alternative to dynastic rule in Egypt. Mr Nour, however, finished a distant second to Mr Mubarak in Egypt's first ever presidential election, held in September 2005. Previously, he had been an outspoken critic of the government and served as a member of parliament for 10 years.

Mr Nour was released early for health reasons. According to Egyptian law, his conviction prevents him from holding a political post for five years. Mr Nour said he would contest the law in court. Since his release he has been touring Egypt in what he calls a "knocking on doors campaign" to reconnect with people after his release. "Over our dead bodies that Gamal would rule us," Abdel Halim Qandil, the co-ordinator of Kefaya, said. He suggested that opposition groups come up with an alternative leader "to put an end to the royal family that has been ruling Egypt for the past 30 years, and wants to rule us for another 40".

"We are facing a very critical and serious moment in Egypt's history," said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist at Cairo University, who was chosen as the co-ordinator of the new anti-succession campaign. However, some doubt what such opposition conferences and alliances can actually achieve in light of their repeated inability to marshal enough public support to pose a serious challenge to Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party and government.

"What's common among these fronts is that they are occasional and reproduce ideas that were expressed during political activities during the 2005 elections," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a senior history researcher at the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, a government think tank. "They are repetitive and contain the seeds of their own failure. Besides, some of the participants are not serious and join for personal motives or to be in the news.

Mohammed Abdel Qodos, an activist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said at the conference on Wednesday: "We have to acknowledge and learn from the negative aspects of the Egyptian national movement. "We can't rely on the same elite and the same faces we see every time; what we are lacking is reaching out to the man in the street. If we continue to work in our offices, and the campaign remains to be elitist, it will fail and won't achieve its goals."

nmagd@thenational.ae