The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Hizb al-Ghad's President, Ayman Nor, Arrested

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Hizb al-Ghad (Party of Tomorrow) in Egypt.

They have been publishing things from local press to Daily Star, entertaining foreign embassy staff, and visiting delegations. Mona Makram-Ebied is the party's the spokesperson. I have been arguing with anyone I can get ahold of that she, in particular, is treated with far more seriousness than need be. I also have made argument that the party was going to have problems because of the personalities involved.

Nonetheless, analysts are running around and trying to figure out what hizb al-ghad means. Is this truly a liberal party? Is this going to revive party life? Is this a sign the gov is relaxing its grip?

While there have been some surprise moves, such as al-Misri al-Youm's manager Hisham Kassem joining the newly licensed entity (as of 27 Oct 04), others have left. Resigned MP and independent businessman Mohamad Farid Hassenian left after a despute with the party's leadership.

It is the leadership of the party that is important. Besides Makram-Ebid, The party's president, Ayman Nor, is the most widely known opposition MP in the country. Formally of the Wafd (he was kicked out by Noman Goma when Goma consolidated his position there), Nor was independent but pinning for a legal party. Nor's constituency, Cairo's Bab al-Sharqaya, is off limits to the government which is unable to take Nor's seat away (even through election fraud). He is just that popular. I predicted Hizb al-Ghad would implode - likely in a fight between its leadership and their indiviual political ambitions (i.e. they are not team players). Apparently, three months without implosion was too much for the government to take so they made their move, and by doing so, disclosed that 2005 was not going to be "the year of independent, autonomous liberal opposition parties".

In a surprising move yesterday (Al-Ahram, 30 January 2005, page 22), the Justice Minister approached parliament noting that al-Ghad's president was up to no good after they had carried out an investigation. Parliament, never one to stand up for certain types of its members, pulled Ayman Nor's parliamentary immunity and he was arrested by the security services. The allegations are that he forged official government stamps on his party application. Also, it alleges that 1887 of the party's 2005 founding members were forged. The register (Ra'isit maktab al-Shahr al-`aqary) in Maadi is saying that 1187 of the signatures came from his district alone. In a familar move, Nor's offices and house have been searched and security has his personal documents and computers.

This story is just beginning and details remain sketchy. But it just would not be Egypt if there was not a high-profile political case going on to keep us all occupied. So now we wait and see.

This also corresponds nicely though to the ongoing National Dialogue between the legal opposition and the NDP. I think their next meeting is to convene tomorrow (maybe tues). That was proving a bit boring. The Tugamu, Nasserists, and Wafd all came out and agreed to NDP's sec-gen (Safwat al-Sharif) call to abandon the calls for consitutional reforms regarding the president's terms limits or style of popular appointment (currently single candidate referendum not direct contested elections) until after October's parliamentary elections.

It was generally assumed that al-Ghad would be the largest opposition party represented in parliament this fall (mind you last time all the opp parties won like 15 seats or something laughable out of 444 contested seats). Now with Nor arrested, things plan to get more sadly interesting before the elections.

Well, it is a month late - but the government looks to have extended its new year's welcome to the oppositon.

The Council on Foreign Relations was here last week meeting people. They were scheduled to meet Nor. Now, the CFR left on Friday night/Saturday morning. Nor was arrested on Saturday afternoon after his immunity was lifted. I am sure, however, the timing of the arrest was merely a coincidence. At any rate, I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see what is said by the CFR and other organs like it in Amrika...

Anyone feel like spreading Middle East Democracy besides Bush?