Egypt's Wafd party may quit pact with Islamists

Sun Aug 7, 2011 3:58pm GMT

By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's liberal Wafd party said on Sunday it may quit an electoral deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, highlighting growing tensions between liberals and Islamists over their vision for Muslim-majority Egypt.

The pact's aim was to allay fears that Islamists would seek to dominate debate about a new constitution, due to be re-written after parliament is elected. Some liberals fear Islamists want the constitution to create an Islamic state.

Growing public criticism of Islamists may also have prompted Wafd to reconsider whether it should stay in the pact that some in the Wafd party saw as an electoral asset but which might now be proving a liability, analysts say.

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, seen as the best prepared for the parliamentary election expected in November, announced a pact with Wafd and 16 other mainly liberal leaning groups in June.

"It seems that the Brotherhood has retracted its position from the document that all members of the alliance have signed setting general rules that the new constitution must have," Yassin Tageldin, Wafd's deputy chairman, told Reuters.

He said Wafd understood that the agreement laid down principles to ensure that when re-written would establish a civil state.

The Brotherhood, which insists it wants a constitution that respects Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have said the pact was not a statement of principles about any constitutional debate but covered how groups would behave before elections.

Essam el Erian, deputy leader of the Brotherhood's party, said his party would not commit to any position about the constitution until parliament assigned a committee to draft it. He also questioned that Wafd would quit the pact.   Continued...

Egypt's Liberal Wafd party chairman Al-Sayed al-Badawi attends a news conference on proposed changes to the constitution in Cairo March 16, 2011. Egyptians will vote on the proposed constitutional changes on Saturday in the first election in decades in which they have not known the result in advance. Oppositions of the changes, which includes the Liberal Wafd party, say they do not meet the revolution's demands while proponents say rewriting the constitution from scratch would take too long. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT)
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