Egypt: Getting it together

Liberal and leftist political parties are reorganising their ranks to face what they see as a threat to the civil nature of the state by the Muslim Brotherhood – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Khaled Dawoud, 6 – 12 September 2012.

A lengthy series of meetings were held this week among dozens of liberal, nationalist, leftist and radical parties in order to form new political alliances aimed at confronting the Muslim Brotherhood and increasingly influential Salafi Islamist groups in the upcoming parliament elections, expected to be held by the end of this year. 

The meetings also aimed at taking a united stand in the ongoing debate over drafting a new constitution in order to assure protection of the civil nature of the state and key basic rights … //

… Meanwhile, Ayman Nour, leader of Ghad Al-Thawra Party, a prominent liberal figure who dared to compete against ousted president Mubarak in presidential elections in 2005 and spent four years in jail thereafter, went further than forming an alliance. He announced Monday that at least 20 small political parties that were formed after the revolution would dissolve themselves and unite in a new party, with a new name and a new leader. He said that former presidential candidate Amr Moussa was likely to become the leader of the new party, which could be named the “National Congress”, similar to that of India, as it also united several small political currents that were fighting against British occupation. Nour implied that he was disappointed with the result of negotiations within the alliance led by the Wafd Party.

“The challenge is not to unite and to form new alliances, but to agree on candidates who would run in the upcoming elections under a liberal agenda so that we won’t compete against each other and end up losing to the political Islamist groups who enjoy a far higher level of discipline,” Nour said.

Despite a lengthy session of negotiations between members of Nour’s newly proposed party and Wafd leader El-Badawi on Monday, the talks appeared to fail to reach agreement on forming a united election front. A statement by the Wafd Party said that it would continue its coordination effort with all other liberal political parties, but it would still run its own lists of candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Many Wafd figures believe that any alliance should be under its banner due to its long history, which is unlikely to be accepted by newly formed liberal political parties.

Radical socialist leader Kamal Khalil, meanwhile, also called for the formation of his own alliance, the “United Revolutionary Front”, made up mainly of small socialist, communist and radical parties. Khalil said the demand for social justice was the main drive during the 25 January Revolution, “and this would be the main line of difference between us and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are strong supporters of the capitalist economy”. He called upon Sabahi and El-Baradei to join his front on these grounds, but there were no responses from their sides.

Finally, the popular former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh might also end up framing an electoral alliance. Abul-Fotouh was expelled from the Brotherhood after he rejected the group’s initial decision not to compete in any presidential elections, though the Brotherhood ended up running their own candidate later. He came fourth in the first round of elections with nearly four million votes and continues to enjoy wide support among Salafis and supporters of a moderate political Islamist agenda. Earlier he announced the formation of a new political party, named “Misr Al-Qaweya” or “Strong Egypt”, and has been involved in negotiations with other moderate Islamic parties, such as Al-Wasat (Centre Party), Al-Adl (Justice Party), Al-Tayar Al-Masry (the Egyptian Current) and Misr Al-Mustaqbal (Egypt’s Future) led by popular Islamic preacher Amr Khaled, in order to coordinate together in the upcoming elections.

Besides overcoming their own differences, both political and personal, what will greatly determine the chances of success for the newly emerging alliances and fronts will be the performance of President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the coming months. If the president manages to improve the economy, restore security and prove that many of his recent appointments of ministers and governors were wise choices, it could make firm the Brotherhood’s control over the state for some years to come.

“If we lose badly in the upcoming parliament elections, failing to make a good showing and present strong opposition to the Brotherhood, that would be the beginning of a long era of dominance by political Islamist groups,” said Mohamed Naaim, a leader of the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party. “Therefore, we have no other option but to work together as leftist and liberal groups,” he added. (see p.5).
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