‘Egypt’s opposition groups risk losing last chance to beat Islamists’
Washington: Disparate opposition groups are so divided in Egypt that they risk losing in the upcoming Parliamentary elections in the country to Islamists, analysts and activists have said.
According to the Washington Post, hostility to the country’s new Islamist-backed constitution drew thousands of protesters into the streets last month and degraded the Muslim Brotherhood’s credibility nationwide.
Politicians and analysts said that the crisis bolstered opposition optimism that they had been left with a prime opportunity to upset a string of Islamist electoral victories over the past year, the report said.
An unlikely alliance of liberals, leftists, secularists and old-regime loyalists had pledged to run as a single party in the Parliamentary elections, expected in April, to maximize their chances at the polls, the report said.
But petty infighting, ideological differences and disorganization in the ranks have rendered the chances of unity at the ballot box increasingly unlikely, the report said.
The result, analysts said, is likely to be further gains for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist Nour party, which together won 72 percent of parliamentary seats last year, in the first national election since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Now the factions are splintering over economic policy, as the country’s economic crisis deepens. And they’re bitterly divided over whether members of Mubarak’s old government and now-defunct ruling party should be accepted on the ballot.
The Egyptian leftists, who oppose the government’s efforts to secure a 4.8 billion dollars loan from the International Monetary Fund, said that they don’t want the liberal capitalists on their electoral ticket.
The opposition has accused the Brotherhood of exploiting the poverty and religious sympathies of Egypt’s Muslim majority to get votes.
During last year’s parliamentary races, liberal parties accused the Islamists of handing out cooking oil and urging their constituents to vote for ‘Islam’.
In recent weeks, the Muslim Brotherhood has launched the kind of grass-roots charity projects that analysts said have proved critical in building voter support among Egypt’s poor in recent years.
It provided free seminars across the country to educate Egyptians about their new constitution. The Brotherhood office in Fayoum, a rural province south of Cairo, recently led a women’s literacy campaign.
In the coastal city of Alexandria, the Brotherhood paid for a rat extermination campaign. The group’s charities operate mobile medical clinics in slums and rural areas year round.
Some factions within the opposition are catching on. The Social Democratic Party said that it has started building schools on the outskirts of Giza, Cairo’s dense and populous sister city along the Nile, where Islamists command wide support.
According to the report, Gamal Soltan, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, said the opposition has learned some lessons from its bitter experiences in Egypt’s fledgling and deeply imperfect democracy.
He said that but the various groups are unlikely to overcome their differences in time for the next critical vote, he said.
With control of parliament and the presidency, the Islamists would be able to shape the new Egypt. But Soltan, who is deeply critical of Morsi and the Brotherhood, believes that the Islamists will win again this spring, the report added.
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