Egypt liberals to counter Islamists spurning proposal for new constitution

August 16, 2011

Protesters carry a banner reading "There is no God but God" as they chant religious and nationalist slogans in Tahrir square in Cairo July 29, 2011/Asmaa Waguih

Liberal political groups and a traditional Islamist party have launched a coalition, “The Egyptian Bloc”, to challenge powerful Islamists in a November parliamentary election. Many Egyptians have voiced concern that Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood — the country’s best organised political force, may try to create an Islamic state if they manage to secure a majority in parliament.

“Our goal is to say very clearly that we believe that new Egypt has to be a civil democratic state,” said Osama El Ghazali Harb, founder of the liberal Democratic Front Party, an opposition group under Mubarak, on Monday. The coalition of 15 groups agreed to work together to raise funds for the elections and to field one list of candidates and campaign together.

They have also endorsed a proposal by the government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf calling for a “constitutional decree” that will prevent Islamists monopolising the drafting of a new constitution if they win a majority in elections.

Analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah, of the al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said the coalition was “a final attempt by the various political forces” to form an opposition group to stand against the Islamists in the elections. “This alliance could have a chance if it acted quickly and used (to its advantage) the increasing public fears of the Brotherhood and their goals”, he said.

Egyptian Islamists reacted with indignation last week after a top minister said the government might lay down the basic tenets of a constitution before a new elected parliament gets a chance to debate and vote on the document.

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