CAIRO: A coalition of opposition parties is set to conclude its activities today with a press conference at Al-Wafd Party headquarters in which they will announce their demands for constitutional reform, free and fair elections and plans to mobilize the masses.
Under the slogan the nation s safe alternative , the conference, which started on Saturday, was organized by Al-Wafd, Al-Tagammu, the Nasserist and Democratic Front parties which last month had formed the Coalition of Democratic Parties, in collaboration with other political groups.
Neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor Al-Ghad party attended the conference, where participants demanded the retraction of recent amendments to Articles 76, 77 and 88 of the constitution to allow for independent candidates to run in presidential elections as well as restrict the number of terms a president can hold to two.
They also called for guarantees on clean parliamentary elections by appointing an independent higher elections commission with its own security apparatus.
The group also called for applying the elections lists system in this years legislative elections instead of fielding individual candidates.
Members of the newly-formed National Coalition for Change, headed by former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei, also attended. But the organizing parties said that their group was not a response to ElBaradei’s appearance on the political scene.
We announced last October that the conference would take place by January; however, certain circumstances prevented us from organizing it at the previously announced date, Mahmoud Abaza, head of Al-Wafd Party said.
The conference is only a step to crystallize our vision and our ideas, he added.
Hassan Nafaa, co-coordinator of the National Coalition for Change said that it wasn’t important who led the quest for change but that there should be a pressure group to change the constitution.
We must mobilize the masses to push for change and before that we must agree on our demands, he said.
The Nasserists resented ElBaradei s criticism of the July 23, 1952 military coup as well as what they described as the new Coalition’s attempt to sideline political parties in the quest for constitutional change.
Members of the Coalition are individuals who refused to join existing parties for various reasons . while we, the parties, have a system of hierarchy through which we make decisions, Sameh Ashour, head of the Nasserist Party said.
The Coalition is only a temporary group, so why must we be forced to follow it, he added.
Osama Al-Ghazaly Harb, a leading member of the Democratic Front Party, however, said that they fully support ElBaradei and that he is an addition even as an individual to demands for democracy.
We will not ask the current regime for change, we must mobilize masses to ask for change, he said.
We shouldn t keep telling people that there is no hope of change . this way they will remain silent as they are now. Instead, we should give them hope and work with them closely, Refaat El-Saeed, head of the Tagammu party said.
We shouldn t think of one man as the savior of the country; only the people are the real saviors, he added.