Egyptian activists angry over deal between political parties, military

October 3, 2011

Activists and politicians on Monday denounced an agreement signed by 13 political parties and Egypt’s interim military rulers over the weekend to avoid an election boycott, saying it runs contrary to the principles of this year’s revolution.

Supporters of the agreement, reached after thousands took to the streets Friday to “reclaim the revolution,” said it represented concessions by the military leaders.

The generals agreed to amend an electoral law and review an expanded emergency law that allows authorities to detain people without charges. But the agreement also called for party leaders to “declare their full support to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces” and thank the body for “protecting the revolution and working on handing over the power to the people.”

The move was meant to appease critics, but it angered some activists, youth leaders and others. They say the deal offers only minor concessions and makes no promises to lift the emergency law, one of the main demands of protesters who forced President Hosni Mubarak from power.

Hundreds of people protested in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s 18-day revolt earlier this year, after the agreement was announced. On social media networks, youth leaders condemned the deal, and people referred to it as “dirty.”

Hani Shukrallah, a prominent member of the Social Democratic Egyptian Party, handed in his resignation to his party Monday because its leader had signed the agreement. He criticized the wording of the agreement, which he said tacitly endorsed the reviled law that Egyptians associate with Mubarak’s authoritarian rule.

The military chiefs said they would consider narrowing the scope of the emergency law to certain, unspecified crimes, and they agreed to explore legislation that would ban politicians from Mubarak’s dissolved party from participating in political life.

“It’s shameful,” Shukrallah said Monday. “You’re conceding one of the most important demands of the revolution, the canceling of the emergency law, for the sake of getting rid of some competition.”

He added that allowing the law to be exercised for specific cases was exactly what Mubarak did to suppress his opposition and consolidate control.

Shukrallah said that a provision to allow international election observers was questionable because it called them “viewers.” It was unclear whether they would be permitted inside polling stations. Elections are set to begin Nov. 28.

The agreement outlines a timetable that would keep the military in power through 2013. After elections for the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament, and the Shura Council, the upper house, are completed, a committee with members from both bodies would be appointed before April to draft a new constitution. The panel would have up to a year to write the document, and only then would presidential elections be held. Presidential hopefuls have publicly criticized the decision, saying it slows the transition to civilian rule.

Ahmed Shokry, a Justice Party member who attended the meeting last week, said party officials were forced to remove their names from the agreement after public and internal outcries against it. Party members questioned why their leaders would sign something that conceded little other than a provision that allows political parties to run for all seats, including those originally reserved for independents, in exchange for endorsing the military leadership’s conduct.

“We had great opposition from our party members. We had to send a statement to the press that we withdrew our signature,” Shokry said.

Party members were particularly angry that their leaders signed an agreement that endorsed full support of the military council. “It’s an open agreement that gives the power to the [council]. It was too hasty, and that’s what made public opinion so polarized,” Shokry said.

Other parties also publicly criticized the agreement after signing it, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

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