Mubarak allies establish reform party in Egypt to satisfy U.S.

Monday, November 1, 2004

CAIRO Egypt has approved the formation of a secular political movement in a move meant to satisfy U.S. demands for democratic reforms.

Egyptian sources said Al Ghad party was granted a license in a remarkably short process and would be able to participate in parliamentary elections. This was the third time Egyptian authorities licensed a political party since 1977.

Al Ghad launched operations with an inaugural meeting last week and pledged to advocate a reform agenda, Middle East Newsline reported. The party said this would include the drafting of a new constitution.

"Al Ghad has a specific agenda for political and economic reforms in Egypt," Al Ghad leader Ayman Al Nour said in a statement. "It has already drafted a new constitution based on the idea of a parliamentary republic."

The sources said Al Ghad was composed of Egyptians close to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Al Nour, age 40, was a journalist who became an attorney.

Al Nour was a member of parliament for the opposition Al Wafd but was expelled for violating party guidelines. He said Al Ghad would begin publication of a daily newspaper in January 2005.

The licensing of the new Egyptian party was meant to improve relations with the United States, which has criticized the slow pace of democracy and reform in Egypt, the Egyptian sources said. They said the Mubarak regime would use Al Ghad as an alternative to the Islamic opposition.

In its statement, Al Ghad, which claimed a significant membership of women and Christians, pledged to hold its first gathering on Nov. 6. The party would then select a chairman and a 46-member executive committee.

Parliamentary elections have been scheduled for the end of 2005. Mubarak was also expected to run for a fifth term.

In 1977, Egypt instituted a committee to grant licenses to political parties in a move meant to block the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Currently, the committee has been considering applications from the Brotherhood-linked Al Wasat and Al Karama, regarded as loyal to the pan-Arab principles of the late President Gamal Abdul Nasser.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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