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Egypt’s youth opposition grows, but slowly
Focuses on organization-building before trying election challenges
Question of the Day
The Muslim Brotherhood is helping in the campaign, but it and Mr. ElBaradei’s supporters may seem like strange bedfellows.
So far, the petition has collected 800,000 signatures, nearly 700,000 of them secured through the Brotherhood website, a sign of how its network dwarfs that of the nascent group in this country of nearly 80 million.
Critics warn that the alliance with the Brotherhood may drown liberal voices and drive away potential supporters wary of Islamist ideology.
But the campaign’s organizers appear unfazed.
“No one faction can organize civil disobedience alone,” he said.
Government-sanctioned opposition parties are more suspicious of Mr. ElBaradei. They have rejected his call for a boycott of November’s elections for the 500-seat parliament, which he says will surely be rigged. Some dismiss a boycott as a “risky” option that would benefit the government.
“ElBaradei is most responsible for confusing the situation,” said Rifaat Saeed, the octogenarian head of a left-leaning party with just two seats in parliament.
Another 9,000 volunteers are to be trained or have applied to join the campaign of ElBaradei supporters. After operating mainly online, volunteers have started going door to door to gather signatures and reach out to people, following Mr. Sharp’s ideas.
In his writings, Mr. Sharp offers nearly 200 methods for protesters to pressure authoritarian regimes, from adopting symbolic colors to staging mass strikes.
In the meantime, they have avoided heavy arrests by security services.
“So long as we appear weak, the security agencies will leave us alone,” said Ahmed Ezz, the lead trainer. “We just want a space to breathe, to be free, and we are looking to create a trend.”
Amr el-Shobaky, a political analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a think tank, said the signature campaign is impressive, and such steps to gauge public opinion and set up a structure are new for Egypt’s opposition.
But, he cautions, “no one has an answer to what the next step would be.”
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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