Ex-MPs cheer Tunis overthrow, call for Egypt to follow suit

Egyptian security forces on Sunday prevented former opposition parliamentarians from demonstrating in front of the Tunisian embassy in Egypt, where they had planned to celebrate the toppling on Friday of longtime Tunisian President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali.

The planned sit-in was organized by a group of former MPs who announced the formation on Sunday of an opposition-run "popular parliament," established to protest the legitimacy of the current assembly, which is dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party.  

Anti-riot police surrounded the group of protesters only meters away from the embassy, located in Cairo’s Zamalek district.

Five former lawmakers met with Tunisia's deputy ambassador to express their solidarity with the Tunisian uprising. They also reportedly requested that a delegation from their popular parliament be allowed into Tunis.

The group included former MP Alaa Abdel Menaam; opposition Ghad Party President Ayman Nour; Kefaya movement activist Karima al-Hefnawy; liberal opposition Wafd Party member and business tycoon Ramy Lakah; lawyer Hamdy al-Fakharany; former MP for the Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement Mohamed al-Beltagy; former MP Saad Aboud; opposition leftist Tagammu Party leader Abu al-Ezz al-Hariri; and opposition Karama Party founder Hamdein Sabahy.

Prevented by security forces from reaching the embassy, protesters contentiously shouted slogans calling for a similar uprising in Egypt. They were soon joined by local residents who shouted similar sentiments from their balconies.

Since Ben Ali's overthrow three days ago, demonstrators in Egypt have expressed solidarity with the people of Tunisia, with many calling for Egypt to follow suit. 

On Saturday, limited clashes broke out between protesters and security forces as the latter attempted to prevent activists from joining the demonstrations.

Abdel Meguid al-Mehelmy, member of the National Association for Change (NAC) reform movement, attempted to break through the security cordon during a protest on Saturday in front of the Tunisian embassy. “We're just as courageous as the Tunisians–your days are over!” he shouted, in reference to Egypt's ruling regime.

On Saturday, NAC coordinator Abdel Galil Moustafa and former Kefaya coordinator George Ishak met with the Tunisian ambassador. The diplomat, the two activists noted, had appeared “terrified” by the upheaval currently wracking his country.

Al-Hefnawy said the uprising in Tunisia would give the Egyptian people the confidence needed to affect peaceful change in Egypt.

Ishak predicted that Egypt, along with other Arab counties, would inevitably replicate current events in Tunisia. “The Tunisians showed that the Arab people are still alive, and that the days of the oppressors are about to end,” he said.

The NAC's Sayed al-Ghadban, for his part, asserted that the political circumstances prevailing in Egypt were not dissimilar to those in Tunisia. “This is a wake-up call for the Egyptian regime,” he said.

According to Salah al-Adly of Egypt's unlisenced Communist Party, the Tunisia uprising has served to prove the effectiveness of popular movements, which, he said, have become the last resort for Egypt's frustrated public.

“Events in Tunisia are only the beginning of a wave of change that will sweep away the region's oppressive regimes,” al-Adly predicted.

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