Will the Building and Development Party follow Wasat to avoid ban?
The Islamist Building and Development Party logo
By AMIRA EL-FEKKI

CAIRO: The Political Parties Affairs Committee Sunday began looking into a motion filed by committee President Judge Mohamed Mahgoub demanding the dissolution of the Islamist Building and Development Party, possibly excluding the party from taking part in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The lawsuit accused the party of engaging in ground activities such as violent protests and acts in support of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and former President Mohamed Morsi, including their participation in the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins and protests in violation of the principles upon which it was founded, Youm7 reported a source inside the committee saying Saturday.

Party members also allegedly participated in a sit-in in front of the Constitutional Court in December 2012, which prevented judges’ meetings for more than two weeks.

According to the claim published by Al-Tahrir news website on Aug. 26, the court case stated that the party “forms secret militias, and incites discrimination between people based on race, religion and gender,” in addition to adapting violent speech, with threats to kill on several occasions.

As for who was behind the claims, two separate Islamist groups had spoken of pursuing a ban of the party soon after the new constitution was passed in January this year. Walid al-Barsh, a leading member of the MB Rebel Movement had told the press last July that they refused to politically engage with the Building and Development Party.

Along with another movement called the Gamaa Islamiyya Reform Front, both groups accused party members of deception aimed at gaining public compassion and vowed to legally pursue their ban.

Lawyer Essam el-Islamboly argued that the committee could push for the dissolution of the party if it suspects that the party intends to act on a religious basis, adding in statements to Youm7 Sunday that the committee will examine the party’s program and decide whether or not it has a strong Islamist influence in policy making.

The party responded by announcing the formation of a defense front of at least 30 legal experts, party Secretary-General Mohamed Saak told Youm7 Saturday. Senior member Ahmed Omran also stated that their opponents are “personalizing issues and have no grounds for accusations,” adding that the party is committed to its principles and to moving forward with “neither the military nor with the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to his statements published on the party’s official website.

But it does not seem that the party acknowledges the legitimacy of the current regime, not only because it is a part of the opposition organization National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy (NASL), but also because the party clearly refers to the current regime as the “government of the military coup.” The term has become a source of debate between the Islamists on one side, and the State, civil and political forces on the other.

Constitutional article 74 forbids the establishment of political parties based on religion, which was applied to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, officially dissolved on Aug. 9. Amid the crackdown on Islamists and internal conflicts which resulted in several groups breaking away, political forces have been considering a national reconciliation with the State but no successful initiatives have been implemented so far.

On Aug. 28, the Wasat Party decided to officially withdraw from the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), which suggests that the party will give in and recognize the legitimacy of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Speaking to The Cairo Post earlier in August, Wasat spokesman Amr Farouk even refrained from using the words “military coup” in describing Sisi’s rise to power.

Meanwhile, the Salafist Nour Party has avoided the same critical situation. The party stopped supporting the Muslim Brotherhood when public anger increased against Islamists before wide protests against them began in the run-up to June 30, 2013.

Not only did the Nour Party adopt a more civic approach, it also widely supported Sisi, playing a major role in mobilizing the masses to vote for him during the presidential elections of May 2014 through nationwide campaigns. Nour is currently preparing to run for parliamentary elections, being the sole Islamist power on the scene.

It remains unclear whether the Building and Development Party would follow in the footsteps of other Islamist parties to be able to have a legally established entity in the future. Party spokesman Ahmed al-Iskandarani stated on the party’s website it had not made any decision regarding a reconciliation proposal by former Muslim Brotherhood MP Mohamed al-Omda.

Omda, who was recently released from prison pending trial in a case over pro-MB protests, is to hold a press conference Sunday afternoon to announce the initiative.

The Building and Development Party was founded in 2011 by former imprisoned jihadist Tarek al-Zomor.

Additional reporting by Ahmed Arafa, Ahmed Metwally,

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