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Egypt's opposition plans 'unified' assembly against Sisi

Exiled opposition politician Ayman Nour says a preparatory committee has been created, as Sisi loses support from Saudi Arabia
Ayman Nour speaks during a conference for Egypt's presidential candidates in Cairo in 2011 (Reuters)

Opposition politicians in Egypt have thrown down the gauntlet to the military-backed presidency of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by announcing the preparation of a new "National Assembly" which could help the country transition from dictatorship to democracy.

The group, who call themselves the G10, comprise liberal, secular and Islamist parties, forming the widest coalition yet assembled of Egyptian democrats who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the 2013 military coup that brought Sisi to power.

They say they are in contact with the key Gulf states that once bankrolled Sisi, but which have now broken with the Egyptian president, along with former members of Egypt’s military.

A preparatory committee has been created, with supporting committees in many countries, including Egypt. The National Assembly was created as an alternative parliament in 2010 after elections rigged by then-president Hosni Mubarak and helped hasten Mubarak's resignation after mass street protests began on 25 January 2011.

The liberal politician Ayman Nour, the leader of the El-Ghad party, said that the idea was to present Egypt with a movement that could help all parties and social movements participate.

READ: Middle East Eye's full interview with Ayman Nour

In an interview with Middle East Eye, Nour said: “It is meant to reassure the people, the Copts, state institutions. It’s a union of people who are non-violent and do not seek revenge. They have balanced political positions which can accommodate difference. This is the message that we are taking to the region, where there is fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will retake power, a region that thinks that the only alternative to Sisi can come from the military itself.”

Nour dismissed the possibility that Sisi, who is unpopular domestically, had been given a lifeline by the incoming US President Donald Trump.

Trump spoke to Sisi in a phone call on Monday, with a White House spokesperson telling journalists that the pair had "discussed ways to deepen the bilateral relationship and support Egypt's fight against terrorists".

READ: Trump and Sisi discuss fighting terrorism in phone call

“I am not really pessimistic about Trump as other people are, because I was not really optimistic about Obama. Trump is actually injecting the region with terrorism. He is not a defence against terrorism,” said Nour.

Nour, who now lives in Istanbul, said that Sisi’s position was now untenable, having lost the support of Saudi Arabia.

'Small hill full of monkeys'

“Sisi has no vision and no real opportunities but that cursed man has very good luck and part of his good fortune is us, the Egyptian opposition. I think if we worked with half a brain or, let us say this, if the Muslim Brotherhood worked with half a brain, I think Sisi would now be in a zoo. We have this creature that is half-donkey and half-horse and that creature [in Arabic] is called Sisi. It would be his place in the zoo, but next to that place would be a small hill full of monkeys. I would say that is a more proper place for him.”

Nour said he had been in communication with Saudi Arabia's King Salman before his accession to the throne in 2015, and claimed the Saudi king now “saw the naked truth” about the Egyptian leader. This realisation has already had its effect on intra-Gulf relations, with an important partnership being constructed between Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Nour said in the last three months the influence of Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, on King Salman’s son Mohammed, the Saudi defence minister, had “diminished drastically”. He said that Saudi Arabia would now be “just as happy” to have Sami Anan, the former Egyptian Army chief of staff, in power - or anyone else.

Anan, who is known to have close relations with Riyadh, has been ordered by Sisi to keep a low profile, which almost amounts to house arrest, Nour claimed.

Nour revealed for the first time the key names on the preparatory committee and their parties. It includes the secular April 6 movement and both wings of the Muslim Brotherhood, who have split with each other over the need to modernise the organisation.

One notable absentee from the list Nour revealed was Mohamed ElBaradei, the former vice-president, who lives in exile in Austria.

Nour said the situation in Egypt had got so bad that no one person could halt the slide into economic and political chaos.

Whoever took over the reins after Sisi would be taking on a suicidal role, hence the importance of having a group of politicians with strong democratic credentials who could keep the country on track to democracy, Nour said. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.