Few were surprised last week when Egypt's wayward opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, decided to boycott the coming parliamentary elections.
Their pretext was the election law, which was amended and passed after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled several of its articles unconstitutional. The NSF argues that the law remains unconstitutional, since parliament never sent the amended version back to the court for a second review.
Had they not been able to point to the election law, the opposition probably would have boycotted anyway: They simply have too many unsatisfiable grievances with President Morsi and his administration, as Issandr El Amrani has detailed.
By deciding to boycott, the NSF's influential leaders - Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahi, Ahmed Said - re-embraced revolutionary principles that they probably find more comfortable than political compromise. I admit that I thought it would be the other way around. When the NSF decided to push for a "no" vote during December's constitutional referendum instead of boycotting, it appeared to me that participatory realists had won the day. With Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party still at a low ebb, I wrongly thought they would again.
It's possible that we don't listen hard enough to the opposition leadership when they describe their view of Egyptian politics - that we too often chuckle at ElBaradei's Twitter manifestos instead of taking them seriously. If you listen, what you hear is more angry and radical than you might expect. The "civil war" headline topping a recent Daily Beast article might be overblown, but look how Said - the head of the Free Egyptians Party - describes the current situation:
“By all means, it’s the second wave of the revolution,” he says. “It’s not that [Morsi] needs to leave office. It’s that he will be forced one day to leave office. There are a lot of scenarios.”
This is not a consensus opinion among the opposition, and it remains unclear whether the NSF will remain united in its boycott. The Wafd will almost certainly run on their own - they did in 2011 and came in third after Nour and the FJP - and the Social Democrats, one of the only parties with any street muscle, would like to participate. And there are other signs of internal disagreements. The NSF refused to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry during his first visit to Egypt, but NSF figure Amr Moussa will see him today.
It's with this backdrop that I think it might be useful to share an open letter to Kerry which I received today from Naguib Abadir, a founding member of the Free Egyptians and the CEO of Nacita Corporation, an automotive supply and logistics business. Abadir, like Said, believes that Egypt remains in a revolutionary state. He has said that Morsi should be impeached for unconstitutional overreaches and culpability in the deaths of protesters. Abadir and Said might be more outspoken than most, but I think it's fair to say many influential NSF members share these opinions. Whether the country shares them is a far different question, but we might do well to listen:
Open letter to the US Secretary of State on the occasion of his visit to Cairo, Egypt:
The USA has sponsored the so-called Arab Spring and has sold it to its taxpayers as the outcry of oppressed middle-eastern people for democracy, when all it achieved was bringing to power theocratic regimes that oppressed their people even more and turned the victim countries into failed states, namely Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Tunis and now Egypt which you are visiting to ensure that it joins the happy crowd.
Is surrounding Israel by failed states your ultimate objective?
Do you think that there can be lasting peace with countries that base their decisions on fanatic religious views?
Do you think that peace can be perpetuated in a neighborhood of poverty, despair and extremism?
Are you telling your taxpayers that you are squandering their money on a failed experiment that will create new Ben Ladens who will eventually turn against your country and the freedom, equality and liberty your people hold so dearly?
Mr. Secretary, you are coming to Egypt to support Morsi and his gang who since coming to power in June of last year through a questionable election have broken the constitution and all the laws of Egypt.
Mr. Morsi has issued illegal constitution amendment declarations and decrees in flagrant breach of the constitution he swore to uphold. When popular pressure mounted against these unprecedented actions, he decided to abrogate the most illegitimate of those decrees, yet kept all its effects in force!!!!!
He sent his gang thugs to impose siege on the Supreme Court of Egypt for over 2 months to obstruct justice and prevent the court to issue sentences regarding the illegitimate Shoura Council (Upper House) and the second constituent assembly from which one third of the members withdrew. Would Mr. Obama be spared had he done the same in your country?
His security apparatus seconded by his gang militias gratuitously killed and tortured hundreds of Egyptians during peaceful demonstrations.
Irregularities and violations at the referendum for the new constitution in December of last year were called for by civil society organizations as sufficient ground to cancel and repeat the first phase of the referendum, yet you disregarded all this.
You turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to all this and are now coming to force your hand on the free will of the true people of Egypt who sacrificed hundreds of its youth to live in freedom, equality and dignity.
Mr. Secretary this is not what the constitution of the US stands for, this is not what your taxpayers are paying their government to do.
Revisit your mandate and your pledge to uphold your constitution which stands for some of the best values of human mankind, but most of all revisit your conscience and respect the plight of a people that longs for all what your forefathers died for.
Naguib Abadir, a freedom-loving Egyptian