Fundamental differences have emerged recently between the two major opposition blocs in Egypt, the coalition of opposition parties and the National Assembly for Change, over amendments to the constitution and the possible presidential candidacy of Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, as an independent in the 2011 presidential elections.
Opposition blocs in Egypt have started forming coalitions to contest the coming parliamentary and presidential elections against the ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP).
The coalition of opposition parties, which consists of the four major opposition parties Wafd, Tagammu, Nasser and the Democratic Front parties, called for changing the government to a parliamentary republic where the president is the arbiter among the various powers who remains unaffiliated to any party. This opposition submitted their call at the conclusion of a three-day conference by the coalition on March 15th.
A statement from the coalition said it is demanding guarantees for free elections, including establishment of an independent judicial committee.
The statement said the committee should consist of judges who cannot be dismissed and who would manage the electoral process according to the open party-list proportional representation electoral system in which parties and independents can participate.
The statement did not mention the coalition's stance regarding ElBaradei's potential candidacy for president.
Dr. Rifaat Al-Saeed, leader of Tagammu, stated during the press conference that "contesting the elections or supporting any candidate in the upcoming presidential elections will be left to each party to make their own decision."
Mahmoud Abaza, leader of the Wafd party, said during the press conference that "the current electoral system harmed the political parties and allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to gain a huge number of seats in the parliament (88) without stating their political programs. An open party list proportional electoral system requires parties to announce their programs."
Elections for both the People's Assembly and the Shura Council are held according to a single vote system. Safwat Al-Sharif, secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party, announced in September that the party has no intention of making amendments and holding elections based on the party-list proportional system.
In a statement to Al-Shorfa, law professor Dr. Yahya Al-Gamal commented on the demands of the opposition saying that "the quest for a separation and a balance of the powers in Egypt has become a necessity, especially because the constitution currently invests all the powers in the president's hands without giving such powers to the legislative branch represented by the parliament, or the judiciary, as is the case in other countries such as the United States and Germany."
Al-Gamal called on all the opposition forces to agree on a list of constitutional amendments to guarantee the freedom of forming political parties and a peaceful transfer of power.
The conference was convened amid disagreements over whether to invite Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, who is supported by the Democratic Front party, and the Muslim Brotherhood. ElBaradei was not invited because he is not a member of any of the opposition parties.
One of the leading figures in Tagammu, Hussein Abdul Razzaq, told Al-Shorfa "the ideas and the principles of the coalition of opposition parties were stated publicly, and it welcomes any public personality or political movement to join it."
However, the conference sent a message that it does not support ElBaradei's candidacy, and it disagrees with reforms proposed by the National Assembly for Change, which was formed by ElBaradei on February 23rd.
The National Assembly for Change is composed of a number of opposition parties, including Ghad and Democratic Front parties, as well as the April 6th movement and many other public figures such as the journalist Hamdi Qindil and the novelist Alaa Al-Aswani.
The founding statement of the Assembly stated that it has two objectives. The first one is to make amendments to the constitution to guarantee social and political justice, and the second one is to ensure transparency in the upcoming elections.
The campaign outlined seven conditions for fairness in the elections, including ending the state of emergency, judicial oversight of the elections, allowing civil society organizations to monitor the elections, and limiting the presidency to two terms."
Dr. Hassan Nafaa, general coordinator of the National Assembly for Change, told Al-Shorfa, "We are not against President Hosni Mubarak or Gamal Mubarak. All that we are asking for is the right of the Egyptian people to choose their leaders in a fair and transparent manner."
He criticised the opposition parties which have "agreed on the superficialities" of the Egyptian political system and explained that the recent conference of the parties did issue clear steps for reforms.
He added that the campaign is not limited to supporting El-Baradei as some believe. Its main objective is to achieve a democratic system that ensures a peaceful rotation of power by means of free elections. The campaign is seeking to collect one million signatures from all the governorates of Egypt for the founding document of the Assembly.