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Egypt's opposition still hopeful, despite many defeats

Egypt's opposition has been notoriously disorganized and unable to rally its supporters. However, it may have finally been beaten badly enough to overcome its troubles. 

By Gert Van LangendonckCorrespondent / December 31, 2012

An Egyptian flowers vendor reads a newspaper in Cairo, Dec. 27. The official approval of Egypt's disputed, Islamist-backed constitution held out little hope of stabilizing the country after two years of turmoil and Islamist President Mohammed Morsi may now face a more immediate crisis with the economy falling deeper into distress.

Amr Nabil/AP

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Cairo

When a controversial constitutional draft went to a vote earlier this month, the Egyptian opposition was, as usual, in disarray.

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It waffled for weeks between boycotting the referendum and calling for a no vote. When it finally chose the latter only days before the first round of voting on Dec. 15, it was too late to overcome the Muslim Brotherhood and their salafist allies’ strong campaign for a "yes."

But the backlash facing President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood for rushing the constitution through without input from the opposition has given his opponents new hope for electoral success. 

“The divisions are a thing of the past now and we have Mr. Morsi to thank for that,” says Mostafa El Guindi, who was an independent member of the now-dissolved parliament and played a role in organizing the main facets of the opposition into a new coalition, the National Salvation Front.

“The marriage between ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabahi is now fact,” he says, referring to two politicians with often clashing policies. That the Nobel prize winner and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, and Hamdeen Sabahi, the leftist candidate who came in a surprising third in June’s presidential elections, have come together shows the strength of the determination to create a united front against the Brothers.

This gives the opposition new hope heading towards parliamentary elections which, according to Egyptian law, must happen within two months of the approval of the constitution. 

Rejecting political games

But there are also those who say the opposition has only itself to blame for its failure to chip away at the electoral successes of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Many people wanted to vote no in the referendum about the constitution, but they were looking for a good reason to do so,” says Fady Ramzy, who runs the think tank Messry. “The problem is that the opposition doesn’t have a political product to sell. They should have spent their time convincing people that this constitution is [a waste] for any number of reasons, and that we should do a better job. Because what we have now is just a bunch of nice words with no mechanism to hold those in power to the promises contained in the constitution. Instead, the opposition chose to make a lot of noise about the influence of sharia in the new constitution.”

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