On 24 August, the day that saw protesters stage rallies against the Muslim Brotherhood, a video clip posted on YouTube showed a Christian woman named Amal Kamel carrying the Egyptian flag and chanting, “The people want to bring down the regime. The people want a military coup.”
In the video, shot in the Unknown Soldier Monument area in eastern Cairo, previously a favorite protest spot for supporters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and currently for anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters, the woman accused President Mohamed Morsy of being involved in a recent attack on Egyptian security guards in Rafah in which 16 guards are thought to have been killed by radicals in Sinai.
“Never has it happened under [ex-President] Hosni Mubarak that 16 would get killed at once. To make matters worse, we are told those who killed them have links with old jihadists who were in Egyptians prisons before Morsy let them out before the attack.”
Following the fall of Mubarak on 11 February 2011 and the court-ordered dissolution of the National Democratic Party (NDP) in April, Morsy and the Brotherhood, previously in the opposition, rose to power, relinquishing the ranks of the opposition to supporters of the former regime.
The 24 August protest, in which tens of thousands of citizens participated across Egypt, marked the first organized action for Morsy’s opposition who poured to the streets to protest what they termed the “Brotherhoodization of the state.”
Mohamed Abou Hamed, a former MP and one of the organizers of the protest, says the word “feloul” (commonly used in Arabic to designate remnants of the old regime) has been coined by the Brotherhood to segregate civilian powers. In fact, the feloul constitute the new opposition because not everyone who worked with the former regime or ran on the NDP lists in elections is necessarily corrupt or counter-revolutionary, he adds.
“There are clear double standards here. Of Prime Minister Hesham Qandil’s 37-minister cabinet, 18 held top posts in their relevant ministries in the former regime and some were members of the NDP. Still, they were picked and not labeled feloul,” says Abou Hamed.
Leaders of the new opposition say they will exploit the traditional political venues to achieve their goals, including staging protests and fielding candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be conducted within two months of the endorsement of the new constitution expected to be finalized in early October.
But how capable is the new opposition to go up against the 90-year old Brotherhood, the chief opponent to all former regimes and the majority winner in all elections conducted after the 25 January revolution, starting from professional syndicate elections, all the way to parliamentary and presidential polls?
The new opposition
The parties that came out of the disbanded NDP are still categorized as feloul parties by the media and politicians and are therefore a part of the new opposition. These parties, of which the number does not exceed five, grabbed only 17 out of a total of 508 seats in the parliamentary election conducted in November 2011.
Salah Hasaballah, the head of the Egyptian Citizen Party, one of the aforementioned five parties, says, “ The Brotherhood cannot prevent us from engaging in the competition by labeling us feloul. Even though we did not win but a few seats in the previous parliamentary polls, we are still a political faction that should not be crushed by the media.”
Abou Hamed says the Brotherhood’s goal is to foil any attempt by those they label feloul to ally with the rest of the civilian wave, which includes liberals and leftists, to ensure an easy win in any elections, particularly since the civilian wave has better-skilled figures. Their failure to form one united front will always tip the balance in favor of Islamists and more specifically the Brotherhood, according to Abou Hamed.
The new opposition voiced certain demands on 24 August which revolve around four points; the first of which is to legalize the status of the Brotherhood –– a matter which is currently being reviewed by court since the group is not governed by NGOs Law 84/2002 –– in order to reveal the sources of funding of the Brotherhood.
The second demand is to stop the Brotherhoodization of the state, manifest a perceived control of the Brothers over critical branches such as the media and the military institution.
The protesters’ third demand is to dissolve the constitution-writing committee, which has an Islamist majority. Finally, the protesters demanded separation of the executive and legislative powers, both of which Morsy has in his hands after he abrogated the supplementary Constitutional Declaration issued by the SCAF in June to retain the right to legislate until a Parliament was elected.
Hossam Hazem, the founder of the Silent Majority Movement established in February 2011 to support the SCAF, said he does not contest the legitimacy of Morsy but added that the demands voiced on 24 August must be taken into account to avoid reproducing the NDP.
“The sources of funding of the Brotherhood must be revealed. The NDP’s sources of funding were largely known to the society because the party had several famous businessmen who worked on the Egyptian market, yet the [Brotherhood’s] funding remains ambiguous.”
Abou Hamed says the law should have stipulations for the separation of powers, adding that since he rose to power, Morsy has combined all powers.
Despite the fact that leaders of the new opposition agree on rejecting some Brotherhood practices, each one has taken a distinct route in confrontations.
For instance, Abou Hamed has decided to promote his new party, the Life of Egyptians, by conducting rounds in governorates to raise the people’s awareness of the “dangers of the continuation of the constitution-writing assembly, which is hegemonized by Islamists since it will produce a social contract that will govern the life of Egyptians for many years” and to meet with some important figures in villages and towns to persuade them to run on his party’s list in the elections.
Abou Hamed also said that he attended meetings with former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, Dostour Party Chief Mohamed ElBaradei and former leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi, also the founder of the Popular Wave, in order to agree on an alliance to offset the rise of the Brotherhood.
Hazem, meanwhile, said that in the short term his movement will call for a massive rally on 6 October, which marks Egypt’s victory in the 1973 war, to hold the president accountable for the goals he pledged to achieve in the first 100 days of his rule in the fields of security, sanitation and traffic.
A longer term plan includes the formation of a national front that comprises leftists and those from Al-Azhar movements, he said, adding that he will soon announce their plans for the parliamentary elections.
Hasaballah, for his part, expressed opposition to staging protests as called for by the Silent Majority Movement, saying citizens believe protests harm the economy.
“What is feasible now is to gear up for the upcoming elections. We are holding meetings with 40 parties, including the Free Egyptians Party and the Egyptian Democratic Party, to form an electoral alliance and to agree on presenting a new electoral law.”
Abdel Moneim Saeed, a political analyst and a former member of the NDP’s Policies Committee, said the current political fluidity –– manifest in the large number of civilian parties and alliances –– coupled with the strength of the organization of the Islamist wave and the fact that voters have a preference for Islamists, render the new opposition’s mission all the more difficult.
“The previous election has shown that Islamists are way better at setting up tactical alliances than civilian powers with which the new opposition wants to ally because every individual power wants to win alone. So what do you think it will be like when they are joined by new forces?” asks Saeed.
Besides elections, most liberal and revolutionary powers have not shown considerable opposition to Brotherhood rule so far. For instance, the Wafd Party and the April 6th Youth Movement boycotted the 24 August protest, saying the planned rallies would be “undemocratic since they do not respect the results brought by the ballot box.”
“Several members of the civilian wave do not want to oppose the rule of the Brotherhood in order not to be labeled feloul, and so a decision by the new opposition to join their ranks will be of no use,” he says.