Reality bites the opposition

Egypt's next parliamentary election is just a few months away, if the legal schedule for its approval moves as planned, and the opposition is at work plotting a combined strategy.

That's a good thing if you're someone who wants to see Egypt's minority parties coalesce into a fighting force on the legislative battlefield, but not everyone feels that way. Some liberals and revolutionary leftists in particular view most of the transition - especially the current Brotherhood rule - as an illegal sham and would rather reset the clock on the whole thing.

But those voices are losing out as the opposition continues its baptism by electoral fire. Earlier today, a businessman and high-ranking member of one of the more successful opposition parties told me he had dropped out after December's tumultuous and bloody battle over the constitutional referendum. He had been on the losing side of the debate inside the umbrella National Salvation Front over whether to boycott or attempt to vote the referendum down - a debate that carried on so late in the game that it did neither side any good.

Those who argued for the boycott viewed themselves as principled standard-bearers of the revolution, but political realists led by the Social Democratic Party won the day. The businessman said he believes the realists have doomed themselves to a rigged system and agreed to play by rules set by a Brotherhood-led administration that has itself broken the law when it found it expedient.

"We are adding legitimacy to a system which has lost its legitimacy. We already know from the referendum how [the government] have managed the ballot boxes," the man said, adding: "I don't think we stand a chance."

But as the second anniversary of the revolution approaches, it seems that the opposition which claims its mantle will increasingly play ball rather than deny the game.