By Heba Afify
CAIRO: Opposition leaders said they expected foul play in the upcoming parliamentary elections and outlined their strategy to counter it during a conference held on Monday under the slogan “Elections in the Dark.”
The conference was held by the National Association for Change at Al-Ghad Party’s headquarters.
Wael Nawara, vice president of Al-Ghad Party, said that the recent crackdown on opposition media shows that the regime wants to practice its politics in the dark where people are blindfolded and gagged.
Nawara justifies the party’s decision to boycott the elections by saying it will be based on corruption.
“The regime is inviting us to participate in elections that are controlled by cheap deals that are made in the dark, and by appointments which are in fact bribes to get the political powers to condone the regime’s inheritance plans,” said Nawara.
Ayman Nour, head of Al-Ghad Party, said that there are many indications showing that the regime does not intend to hold honest elections.
Nour said that the nature of the upcoming elections has been decided since the constitutional amendments in 2007, which eliminated judicial supervision.
He added that the regime declined the European Parliament’s request to monitor the elections.
“The regime insists on closing all doors and windows so that it can have the elections the way it wants, and decide the results the way it wants too,” said Nour.
Nour warned that the regime’s approach will lead to violence at the polls, in what he referred to as “an electoral joke.”
“The picture is dark, the elections are in the dark, Egypt is in the dark, and it will only be lit by freedom and democracy,” Nour said.
Abdel Gelil Mostafa, general coordinator of the National Association for Change, said that the association’s struggle against the regime is not an easy one but that they will not stop regardless of the difficulties.
“The regime is blocking all the sources of light so that its crimes can be done in secrecy, but we have the power to uncover them,” said Mostafa.
Mohamed Al-Beltagy, Muslim Brotherhood MP, said that the regime is putting out all the sources of light one after the other starting from the elimination of judiciary supervision in 2007 to the restrictions imposed on the media, which confirms its intention to forge the elections.
“If you’re having a wedding, you invite people to attend it, but if you’re having a scandal, that’s when you try to hide it,” says Al-Beltagy.
Ahmed Shaaban, co-founder of Kefaya, said that the movement has decided to boycott the elections because all the indications, citing forging student elections and the restrictions imposed on the media.
Shaaban called the upcoming elections “a democratic disaster” and promised that the opposition will keep fighting it.
“The government won’t be able to stop the current of change, the bullet of change was fired and it will never go back,” said Shaaban.
Tarek Al-Awady, lawyer and member of the National Association for Change, said that the slogan of the conference — “Elections in the Dark” — is an understatement.
“This is a complete criminal scheme that aims at forging the will of the people, with an audacity that Egypt has never witnessed before,” said Al-Awady.
Al-Awady added that opposition leaders need to take measures to expose this “crime” which victimizes not only opposition candidates but all Egyptians.
Political activist Karima Al-Hefnawy, says that the crackdown on the media is aimed at making the elections period a “smooth period during which only the government’s spokespeople can talk.”
She said that the government has intensified its efforts to hold the elections in the dark because of the increased foreign and local attention it is attracting.
“They think that they can control us like before, but times have changed and they can’t cover up their scandals anymore,” said Al-Hefnawy, “We will boycott the elections, we will monitor it closely and expose the corruption to prove our point of view.”
Journalist Nour El-Hoda Zaki said that the upcoming elections can earn Egypt an international record.
“This is the first time in Egypt and the world that people are sure that the elections will be forged, even before it begins,” said Zaki.
Egyptian intellectual Ammar Ali Hassan announced that the National Association for Change will form a committee that will expose the corruption of the parliamentary elections, despite the limitations on the media.
“If cameras will be banned and the media will be restrained, then this is the age of the citizen journalist,” said Hassan.
Hassan said that the association will use mobile phone cameras, testimonials from eyewitnesses and information from the electoral committees’ delegates to document any foul play that takes place during the elections.
Hassan added that the association will receive help from members of the National Democratic Party itself who didn’t receive the party’s nomination and who have helped the association before with testimonials and documents.
“We will present the evidence that we will collect at the right time to the judicial system and to international players to discredit the next parliament,” said Hassan.