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Egypt’s Islamist parties face uncertainty

Calls mount for disbanding these parties for allegedly promoting radicalism

Gulf News

Cairo: A recent crackdown on Islamist politicians has raised calls in Egypt for dissolving their parties over alleged links with terrorism.

Last month, Egyptian authorities arrested ex-presidential candidate Abdul Moneim Abu Al Fotouh, the head of the Islamist Strong Egypt Party, on charges of spreading false news and connections with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. A court also placed Abu Al Fotouh, an ex-Brotherhood official, on the terrorism list.

In June last year, an Arab quartet designated Tarek Al Zomor, the leader of the Egyptian Islamist Building and Development Party, as a terrorist along with 58 other Islamists associated with Qatar. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have since severed diplomatic and transportation links with Qatar over its support for militant groups.

Al Zomor, who lives in Qatar, is charged in Egypt in several cases related to terrorism and incitement to violence. After being designated as a terrorist, he quit the leadership of his Cairo-based party.

In Egypt, several lawsuits have been filed against Islamist parties, demanding their dissolution.

On April 21, the Higher Administrative Court will hear a lawsuit filed by an official commission in charge of licensing political parties, demanding the dissolution of Al Zomor’s Building and Development Party.

Several Egyptian secular politicians have expressed backing for scrapping Islamist parties.

“Religious parties act as arms of the terrorist Brotherhood organisation and therefore they must be stopped because they represent danger to the national security,” lawmaker Mohammad Selim said.

“Leaving these parties in existence harms the political situation in the country because they mix religion and politics. They also feeds extremism,” added Selim, a member of the pro-government Support Egypt coalition that holds the majority in parliament.

“These parties violate the constitution that bans the establishment of parties on a religious basis,” he told private newspaper Al Watan.

Egypt is engaged in a relentless campaign against militant violence following a spate of deadly attacks mainly targeting security forces and the country’s Christian minority.

The Islamist parties, including the Brotherhood’s now-banned Freedom and Justice Party, were licensed after the 2011 uprising that forced longtime president Hosni Mubarak out of office.

They include the ultra-conservative Al Nour Party, which was the only Islamist party that backed the army’s 2013 overthrow of president Mohammad Mursi of the Brotherhood following enormous street protests against his rule.

Al Nour has 12 members at the 596-strong Egyptian parliament elected in 2014.

Since Mursi’s ouster, Al Nour has survived some lawsuits that demanded its dissolution.

Its officials say new calls and suits for disbanding it are doomed.

“Al Nour is a legal political party based on abidance by the constitution and the law,” the party leader Younis Makhyun said.

He dismissed as “hollow” calls pushing for the party’s invalidation.

“Such media statements are hollow. Previously, courts ruled in favour of our party as a political entity against dissolution cases,” Makhyun told Gulf News.

“Al Nour strongly backs the state’s efforts in combating radicalism and terrorism. Egypt faces several challenges that should prompt all Egyptians to join hands in order to undertake these challenges rather than spread fragmentation.”

Al Nour has backed President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi’s bid for a second term in office. In recent weeks, the party has held a series of rallies nationwide backing Al Sissi and urged Egyptians to vote for him in the presidential election due later this month.

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