By Ed Attwood
Analysts warn major opposition parties might not win mandate despite free and fair elections
Despite the size of the nationwide protests in Egypt over the last two weeks, the opposition in the country is fragmented and has no overall national agenda, analysts have warned.
Former UN nuclear agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei might be regarded in international circles as a front-runner to replace current President Hosni Mubarak, but his late appearance on the national stage during protests mean that he is not as popular as many outside Egypt assume.
“ElBaradei has so far failed to capture the popular imagination,” Anoushka Kurkjian, a UK-based independent Middle East consultant, told Arabian Business.
“He’s a technocrat and is someone who is seen by some protestors as jumping on the bandwagon. He hasn’t become the unifying national figure that would be needed at this stage.”
So far, the most well-organised opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood has been keen not to hijack the protestors’ agenda. The Brotherhood has grassroots support all over Egypt due to its network of charities and local organisations, but the group has no focus on key issues like health, education and foreign affairs.
"They are not in a strong position, and even if there were free and fair elections in November, I don't think either the Muslim Brotherhoods or the current opposition parties would have been able to capture a huge majority, even if conditions were perfect," said Sara Hassan, a Middle East and North Africa political analyst at IHS Global Insight.
"They are just not strong enough and internal problems have left them very weak. They have had a lot of problems trying to elect a new leader, and they are quite divided, so altogether they are not the strong force that people thought. The same, frankly, goes for the other opposition parties.”
Elsewhere, other opposition leaders like Ayman Nour also lead fragmented parties, whose support is based on a limited number of areas, not a mass national agenda for change.
"People might be attracted to certain figures in the opposition, not because they respect them particularly, but because there’s no alternative,” said Hassan. "Ayman Nour, traditionally, has been able to get little support outside his local constituency – Bab Al Sharaya, a poor district in Cairo."
"Even within his own party, people don’t like him – last year, we saw fighting within the party that led someone to torch part of the party headquarters, so we're not talking about a strong cohesive party with him at its head," she added.
The power vacuum seems to indicate that a figure from the military – which has produced Egypt’s last three presidents and current vice-president Omar Suleiman – could well be in line to take over, at least in the interim.
“Appointing another officer from the armed forces would be more of the same, but anyone stepping up to the plate now realises that Egypt needs political and economic reforms," says Kurkjian.
"Unless they reform the institutions, dismantle the police state and allow a semblance of accountability, then Egypt will continue on its current line."
However, protestors on the street will still be hoping that a unifying figure can emerge and become a banner that can attract mass support during elections later this year.
"The opposition just hasn't been very vocal - until now it seems very disorganised and very spontaneous," Hassan said.
"Because of years and years of repression, the structures are not there for any kind of strong opposition to emerge. Even a shadow cabinet or anything of that nature hasn't been spoken of at all. It's all very quiet, and that in itself is worrying."
I am a business traveler who is of Egyptian origin and was there during the whole thing.
What people are seeing in Tahrir square are a few people who know nothing about Egypt and their main aim is to cause chaos so that they rise to the presidential seat.
Egypt has more than 85,000,000 people and let's say 1,000,000 don't want Mubarak, please tell me isn't democracy what the majority want.
No body knows anything about Al Braradie, he show up from nowhere and wants to take control of the country.
As for the banned Muslim Brotherhood they don't care about Egypt or Egyptians they just want to be the leaders, and they will do whatever to get it, after that they will start enforcing their rules and regulations on the 10,000,000 plus Christians and 73,000,000 Muslims of the country. Again where is the democracy here?
Most Egyptians including the youth who protested on January 25 wanted some basic demands and have now backed out of the protests.