CAIRO: Political movements and Islamist parties said they will take part in Friday protests but under different banners, as amendments to a controversial constitutional principles document remain unclear.
The April 6 Youth Movement, the campaign supporting presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abo Ismail and other activists said they will take to the streets under “The Only Demand” banner to urge the military to hand over power to an elected civil government.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), alongside other Salafi parties announced that they would participate in mass protests on Friday under the "Protecting Democracy" banner, to protest the controversial constitutional principles document as a whole.
The Democratic Alliance, an electoral coalition spearheaded by the FJP, said in a statement that negotiations with Deputy Prime Minister Ali El-Selmy to amend his proposed constitutional principles document failed to achieve consensus.
"Although positive changes have been reached, we haven’t reached the anticipated version [of the document], which would guarantee the people’s sovereignty and help reach national consensus," read the statement.
Following a meeting on Tuesday, political parties said controversial articles giving the military power over elected officials were removed. But before a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, during which the amendments were expected to be finalized, several political parties, including those of the more liberal Egyptian Bloc, said they will not participate on Friday.
While the results of Wednesday’s meeting were unclear, parties that withheld disclosing their position until the meeting ends were clearly dissatisfied.
Essam El-Erian, deputy head of the FJP, said that Cabinet was reluctant to amend articles in the document, which gave the military excessive powers over elected members of parliament and the constituent assembly responsible for drafting the new constitution.
"This charter added articles that put the military forces above all (including) the state, which is completely unacceptable," El-Erian told Daily News Egypt.
The document proposed by El-Selmy would also guarantee the secret nature of the military budget, barring the People’s Assembly (PA) from scrutinizing it.
"We want a parliament that exercises its full authority in performing its duties and we don’t want the military to interfere in politics," he said.
Political forces had given the ruling military council until Wednesday to withdraw the proposed document, threatening to hold mass protests on Friday.
"We hope that the Cabinet will amend the controversial articles Thursday or withdraw the document altogether," El-Erian said.
Eight of the Democratic Alliance’s nine parties decided to join the protests. Al-Karama Party said it would boycott Friday’s demonstrations.
"We prefer to wait until negotiations with El-Selmy regarding the amendments reach a dead end," Mohamed Bayoumi, general coordinator of Al-Karama Party, told DNE.
Other Islamist groups said they would take part in the protest. They include the Building and Development Party, the political arm of Al-Gamaa Al-Islameya, and the Salafi Al-Asala Party. They, however, want the constitutional principles document to be scrapped not amended.
"Amending the document is no longer an option, we want it completely withdrawn," said Tarek Al-Zomor, leading member of the Building and Development party.
Al-Zomor and Adel Afify, head of Al-Asala Party, formerly known as Al-Fadila, said that they would also call on the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to hand over power to civilian rule no later than April 2012.
Al-Wasat, a moderate Islamist party, decided to participate in the protests condemning Cabinet’s procrastination in announcing the amended charter.
The parties said that no sit-in was planned. However, Afify said that this might change on Friday depending on how the day unfolds.
More liberal parties and groups that have been pushing for a binding constitutional principles charter guaranteeing public freedoms and rights said they would not participate in Friday’s protests, because they would be dominated by Islamist groups that rejected the concept of a binding charter.
Rifaat Al-Saied, head of Al-Tagammu party, said the protest was an attempt by Islamist groups to pressure Cabinet to completely withdraw the document or make it non-binding.
"We also have reservations on Articles 9 and 10 of the document giving excessive authority to SCAF and we want them annulled," Al-Saeid said, adding that negotiations were ongoing with Cabinet regarding this point.
"However, we want a binding document of constitutional principles, but the (Islamist groups) don’t," he added.
On the other hand, other political movements and activists stressed that Friday’s demonstrations would be focused on demanding that SCAF hands over power to a civilian authority by next April and put an end to military trials for civilians.
The April 6 Youth Movement said that their participation was unrelated to the controversy over the constitutional charter.
The movement added in a statement issued on Thursday that mass protests would be held every Friday to pressure authorities to hold secure, free and fair parliamentary elections.