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License for aspiring party delayed

CAIRO: In yet another setback for opposition groups, the Egyptian Political Parties Court has once again postponed a request by the Al-Karama (Dignity) group to officially form a party. “We are certainly going to win the case, a young member of Al-Karama, Mohammad Al-Hameedy, tells The Daily Star Egypt preceding Saturday’s court session. “We will …


CAIRO: In yet another setback for opposition groups, the Egyptian Political Parties Court has once again postponed a request by the Al-Karama (Dignity) group to officially form a party.

“We are certainly going to win the case, a young member of Al-Karama, Mohammad Al-Hameedy, tells The Daily Star Egypt preceding Saturday’s court session. “We will become a party, God willing.

For some, the postponement until June sounds much like another rejection, and being granted legitimacy is beginning to seem more and more far-fetched.

Hamdeen Sabahi, a journalist, independent legislator in Egypt’s lower house and an opposition leader, founded Al-Karama in 1999, and has for last past six years been trying to officially form the party, with his requests continuously denied.

According to Reuters, the group’s “latest bid for a party license was rejected on grounds that the group advocated ‘a radical ideology’.

Refusing to give up hope, Sabahi filed a case in the political parties’ court claiming the refusal to grant his group legitimacy was unconstitutional. Sabahi says that his group will aim to reinstate people’s faith in politics.

The role of legal political parties is ending, and if these parties remain alive, they ll be much weaker than they are now, Sabahi told the Qatari Al-Jazeera network Sunday.

Originally a loyalist of the Nasserite party, Sabahi left the organization in 1996 to form his own independent group. Still faithful to the Nasserite philosophy, Sabahi based his new constitution on some of the Nasserite principles, but amended, modernized and added to them.

The Al-Karama leader recently told Al-Jazeera that migrations from the Nasserite party to Al-Karama are ongoing, as his group’s popularity among the opposition increases. Young as it is, Al-Karama’s short history remains clean, untarnished by factions, defections or inner struggle.

Although lacking official status as a party, Al-Karama functions much like one, with a headquarters and all. They have published a constitution, one which members publicize, and occasionally distribute, at political conferences and assemblies.

The party published its first newspaper last October from their downtown office, after obtaining a license in June. Sabahi told the press at the time that a newspaper is an important tool for freedom of expression and political change.

Reportedly, the paper’s very first headline, in line with its stance as a fierce critic of the government, condemned the supposed hereditary transfer of power from President Hosni Mubarak to his youngest son Gamal. The headline, according to reports, read: We Vow by God Almighty that Gamal Mubarak will not inherit us.

The group accepts membership and carries out scheduled assemblies, meetings and lectures under its name. During sit-ins and protests, often in conjunction with the Kefaya (Enough) movement, they carry banners with the name “Al-Karama Party and they refer to their group as such.

Last month, the group’s young representatives set up a table in Cairo’s press syndicate during the third Cairo conference, an annual forum for political parties and various national and international political and opposition groups. The youth presented their party to members of the conference, selling group publications, activity brochures and distributing their contact information and some of their statements concerning current issues on Egypt’s political arena.

Sabahi and some of his followers previously told the press that they believe that the government’s practice of throttling promising political groups could be the reason why Al-Karama is being denied legitimacy. Simultaneously, the government has not left any of Egypt’s political forces with sufficient breathing space to represent their suggestions and recommendations, or to publicize their actions, Sabahi said.

Last year Sabahi had indicated that he might run for the presidency; however, he later changed his mind, saying that Article 76, the amendment to the constitution allowing multiple candidates to run in presidential elections, makes it difficult for independents to run for office.

Collaborating with opposition parties and the Kefaya movement, Sabahi called upon concerned citizens to boycott the presidential elections and on the opposition to form a strong “national opposition front.

Anyone who will run will be a collaborator with the ruling party in their fraud against the will of the people, Sabahi told the Associated Press shortly before the presidential elections, adding that they did not witness “real elections but a crude soap opera.

Sabahi remains a strong critic of the current government through his newly founded newspaper. He is backed by the force of his growing organization, even as Al-Karama’s full-license has yet to be obtained.

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