The Washington Post

Egypt’s main opposition group to boycott vote

Egypt’s largest opposition bloc said Tuesday that it will boycott the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections, heightening the prospect of future instability after months of political crisis and damaging the credibility of the country’s fledgling democracy.

The National Salvation Front, a loose coalition of liberal and leftist political parties, said that it will boycott the late April vote because the Islamist government of President Mohamed Morsi did not consult it in passing a new electoral law and disregarded pressure from the group for, among other things, a new cabinet and a redrafting of the country’s constitution.

“The NSF has decided to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections because we were not consulted about the election law, and also because all our demands have been ignored,” said Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the Front, at a Cairo news conference.

Months of intermittent protests and street clashes have left Egypt’s political forces polarized and have widened the tide of opposition to Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, and his Islamist backers in the Muslim Brotherhood.

But political analysts and opposition leaders have speculated that the liberals’ chances of making significant gains at the ballot box were already slim; opposition leaders have been unable to overcome deep internal divisions over policies and goals or remedy poor organization.

Without the liberals on the ballot, analysts said, Islamists from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line Salafist political parties will sweep the elections. Opposition leaders contend that the boycott highlights a lack of credibility that they say already threatens to undermine the process.

But analysts said the boycott also represents a plea for solidarity on the part of Egypt’s powerful military and its allies in Washington and Europe, who are likely to be uncomfortable with an Islamist-dominated government and parliament in this strategically significant Arab state.

“I think a game is at play here, and the United States, the military and the internal public opinion are a part of it,” said Hazem Hosni, a professor of politics at Cairo University. “I think the NSF’s decision will put great pressure on the regime. . . . If this message reaches the United States, I think it might change a lot.”

The State Department urged Egypt’s opposition on Tuesday to reconsider its decision. Spokesman Edgar Vasquez said it is “critical” for Egyptian parties to participate in the vote so that Egyptians can select from a range of political positions, the Associated Press reported.

Not all opponents of Morsi’s government greeted the boycott with approval. “Ironic that #NSF have boycotted: re-districting for party lists could actually HELP smaller parties, if they play it right,” wrote Hafsa Halawa, an Egyptian who works in democracy promotion, on Twitter.

The NSF also rejected an invitation to participate in a national dialogue convened by Morsi on Tuesday evening. Islamist parties did attend.

Abigail Hauslohner covers D.C. politics -- and the people affected by D.C. politics. She came to the local beat in 2015 after seven years covering war, politics, and corruption across the Middle East and North Africa. Most recently, she served as the Post’s Cairo Bureau Chief.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.