Thursday, January 29, 2015

Egypt's Democratic Current Still Ponders Election Boycott
Ahram Online
Thursday 29 Jan 2015

Grouping still mulls whether to take part in upcoming parliamentary poll; observers say a boycott is unlikely to have serious political consequences

Egypt's Democratic Current Alliance says it is still mulling its stance on the country's upcoming parliamentary poll, but observers say a possible boycott of the elections is unlikely to have significant political consequences.

The umbrella group of liberal and leftist parties said earlier this week its participation in the March elections is subject to the sacking of the interior minister along with other demands, amid an uproar sparked by the shooting to death of a female protester earlier this week.

Thirty two-year-old Shaimaa El-Sabagh died from birdshot allegedly fired by police during a peaceful rally on Saturday near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square.

There is a strong inclination within the grouping to boycott elections amid calls by youth members thereof, but a final say lies separately with the leadership of each party, a leader of Karama Party, one of the groups making up the alliance, said.

"The leadership of each party is now pondering whether to take part or not. Some might boycott and others might decide otherwise," Mohamed Basiouny, Karama Secretary General, told Ahram Online.

The Democratic Current Alliance comprises of the left-of-centre Constitution Party, founded by former vice president Mohamed ElBaradei and the Nasserist Popular Current – led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi. Both parties were formed late in 2012.

The alliance also includes the 18-year-old Karama Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egypt Freedom Party and Al-Adl Party— which together secured a meagre 15 seats in the 2011-2012 election.

Egypt has since been without a parliament after a court dissolved the Islamist-dominated chamber shortly before president Mohamed Morsi took office, ruling that laws under which parliament was elected were unconstitutional.

Several of the grouping's parties have been hesitant about participation in the elections even before El-Sabagh's death, voicing opposition to laws regulating the poll where individual candidates hold the majority of seats in parliament, rather than candidates of party lists.

They had said the system weakens the standing of political parties and allows wealthy businessmen and influential local figures to use local patronage networks to get into parliament.

Earlier in January, the Popular Current said it won't take part in elections, citing discontent with the legislation.

Khaled Dawood. spokesman of the Constitution Party, said on Thursday his group is more likely to boycott to protest against the current political climate, saying the election now is secondary to achieving justice, namely following El-Sabagh's death.

Given the small quota secured by the alliance groups in the last election, some observers believe a boycott would not have serious fallout on the ground.

"The alliance is using the threat of the boycott as a bargaining chip to make the authorities compromise," Yousry Azabawy, political analyst at Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies, said.

Among other demands the alliance has put forward are overhauling the interior ministry, the release of detainees in cases involving freedom of expression, amending a restrictive protest law and reviewing a parliamentary elections law

"That might have some effect, politically and in the media, more than on the ground," Azabawy argued, saying that Brotherhood might exploit a boycott by a liberal-leftist alliance to further criticise the authorities.

El-Sabagh was a leading member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party and her death has stirred up strident criticism of Egypt's heavy-handed police and its lethal use of force against protesters.

An interior ministry official, Gamal Mokhtar, said on Wednesday that El-Sabagh was killed by a type of projectile not used by the security forces, adding that images and videos showing policemen pointing their rifles at her were fabricated.

Egypt will hold the long-awaited election in two phases starting on 22-23 March, the election commission said earlier this month. The second phase of the poll is scheduled for 26-27 April.

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