Cairo: Several opposition activists openly voiced their disappointment after Al Wafd, Egypt's oldest liberal political party, announced late on Friday that it will participate in upcoming parliamentary elections.
"This decision lends the [ruling] National Democratic Party the legitimacy it desperately needs for these dubious elections," said George Ishaq, a prominent activist of the protest group Kefaya (Enough). "It is a regrettable decision," he told Gulf News.
The General Assembly of Al Wafd on Friday voted in favour of participating in the elections, which will be held in November almost a year before the presidential vote.
"Al Wafd will be a strong rival to the ruling party," party chief Al Syed Al Badawi asserted on Saturday, dismissing reports that his party has cut a political deal with President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.
Al Wafd garnered a handful of parliamentary seats in the 2005 elections, which were swept by Mubarak's party and in which the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's strongest opposition grouping (which is officially banned), won a fifth of parliament seats.
"Al Wafd's decision will make the change process more difficult and will encourage other political powers, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, to drop any hesitation about fielding candidates in the upcoming elections," said Hassan Nafaa, a member of the National Coalition for Change led by Mohammad Al Baradei, the former chief of the international atomic watchdog. "Unlike Al Wafd, the Muslim Brotherhood seeks legitimacy through winning seats in the parliament," he said.
Officially banned since 1954, the Muslim Brotherhood fields members in elections as independents.
Al Baradei's coalition has already declared a boycott of the November elections citing a lack of guarantees for a free and fair ballot.
A similar stance was declared by the nascent opposition Democratic Front Party. "In fact, we do not boycott elections. We boycott this farce arranged by the ruling party, which does not want real rivalry but paper parties to lend it legitimacy," Sekina Fouad, a member of the Democratic Front Party, said in press remarks.