Political parties, groups in post-Mubarak Egypt

Last Updated: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 12:43

Cairo: Egypt starts voting in November in its first parliamentary election since Hosni Mubarak was toppled, with over 50 political parties already in the race and more being established.

Some parties have joined alliances. Alongside them are movements of activists that, although not fielding candidates, still influence political debate in the country.

Details on the most influential parties and groups follow:

Freedom and Justice Party

The Freedom and Justice Party was set up in April as the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak and has emerged as one of the most influential forces.

The party, which will contest up to half of parliament`s seats, has not issued a detailed manifesto. Brotherhood leaders say the party is a civil group that has Islam as a "reference" point. They say the party seeks a constitution that respects Muslims and non-Muslims, will not impose Islamic law, and is committed to a pluralistic and democratic Egypt. The party has members from Egypt`s Coptic Christian minority.

Wafd Party
The New Wafd Party was set up in 1978 after then-President Anwar Sadat opened up politics following a period when parties were banned, but its roots go back to the 1920s. Wafd means "delegation" and refers to the team that negotiated with the British and issued an Egyptian declaration of independence in 1922.

Wafd has traditionally been a bastion of liberal democrats in Egypt. Historically, it drew support of business elites and Copts. It was one of the biggest opposition parties under Mubarak, although its critics said it was co-opted by the state.

It advocates a liberal economy with a strong public sector.

Al-Masryeen Al-Ahrar (Free Egyptians)

The liberal party, co-founded by Christian telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris, has positioned itself as a challenger to Islamist groups. The party, whose leaders include Hani Sarie-Eldin, a former chairman of the Egyptian Capital Market Authority and central bank board member, advocates free market policies, the separation of state and religion, ending class inequalities and expanding the middle class.

The party said in August it had more than 100,000 members. They include prominent figures such as writer Mohamed Salmawy, poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, film director Khaled Youssef, and Mahmoud Mehny, the former president of al-Azhar University.

Off-Shoots Of Mubarak`s Disbanded Party

Mubarak`s National Democratic Party (NDP) was disbanded by a court order but former party officials have established or are seeking to set up at least six new parties. Opponents have demanded that former NDP members be barred from the election.

One of the most prominent is the Ittihad (Union) party set up by Hossam Badrawi, who was named secretary-general of the NDP in the last days of the anti-Mubarak uprising in a last attempt to quell protests. Badrawi, seen as a reformer opposed by the old guard, swiftly resigned saying Egypt needed new parties. His party calls for separating judicial, executive and legislative powers whose boundaries were blurred under Mubarak, free market policies and stronger regulations to ensure social justice.

The NDP secured sweeping election victories under Mubarak through ballot stuffing, intimidation and other abuses. Some of its members still command influence through broad business interests or as local notables with clout in their areas.

Other parties led by former NDP officials include al-Horreya (Freedom) which is still seeking approval, Masr al-Tanmiya (Egypt Development), Renaissance Party, Egyptian National Party, Masr al-Haditha (Modern Egypt), and al-Mawatan al-Masry (Egyptian Citizen).

Tagammu Party

The Tagammu was established in 1976 by leftists who included Khaled Moheiddin, one of the officers who joined Gamal Abdel Nasser in the military coup that toppled the king in 1952.

It drew in Nasserists, Marxists and Arab nationalists. It once had strong support from the working class, professional unions, universities and intellectuals, but its influence waned as critics accused it of selling out to Mubarak`s government.

Tagammu was the first group to withdraw from dialogue with Vice President Omar Suleiman during the anti-Mubarak uprising. It has since become an outspoken critic of the Brotherhood.

Democratic Front Party
The party was founded in 2007 to promote liberal and secular values to offset religious conservatism by Osama Ghazali Harb, an intellectual and former NDP member, and Yehia al-Gamal, who was briefly deputy prime minister after the uprising. It is now headed by Al-Saeed Kamel after an internal election in August.

Egyptian Social Democratic Party

One of the first parties set up after the uprising, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party says it backs a market economy committed to social justice, ending monopolies, generating jobs and improving education and scientific research.

Founding members include Finance Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, activist Mohamed Abou El-Ghar, filmmaker Daoud Abdel Sayed and former UN diplomat Mervat Tallawy.

Ghad (Tomorrow) Party

Al-Ghad was established in 2004 by Ayman Nour, a lawyer who split from Wafd after a row with its leader. Within months, the party was embroiled in a legal dispute when Nour was prosecuted for allegedly forging membership names.

Nour ran against Mubarak in 2005 when Egypt held its first and only multi-candidate presidential election under Mubarak. He came a distant second and was jailed after that for forging documents, charges he said were politically motivated.
Al-Adl (Justice Party)
The party was set up primarily by youth activists and members of the National Association for Change, which played a key role in mobilising protests before and during the uprising. It advocates a civil state and a free market economy, focusing its programme on sustainable development, building state institutions, and encouraging investment in the public sector.

Supporters say it has avoided centralised decision-making and has used small youth cells for grassroots projects. The party positions itself as a centrist party.

Wasat (Centre) Party
The party spent 15 years seeking a licence under Mubarak and got approval just over a week after he was ousted. Wasat was set up by former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who say they want to fuse respect for Islamic society with democracy.

Al-Nour (Light) Party

The first party to be set up by Salafists, who follow a strict interpretation of Islam, calls for implementing Islamic sharia law and advocates freedom of expression, an independent judiciary and strengthening local administration. It also calls for job creation through small and medium sized firms.

The party calls for banks and lenders to use Islamic financing that avoids charging interest it views as usury, although it says any transition should take place gradually.

Several other Islamist parties have been formed, including another Salafi group call al-Asalah, or Authenticity.

Masr Al-Horreya (Egypt Freedom)

The party was founded by youth groups and academics, including academic and activist Amr Hamzawy. It endorses liberal market policies that are committed to social justice.

Other Major Movements and Election Alliances

Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance is a coalition of 34 Islamist and other parties and was the first bloc to be formed after the uprising. Critics say it is increasingly dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood party and other Islamist organisations.

Alongside the Brotherhood`s party, the alliance includes al-Karama party, the Nasserite Party, the Egyptian Labour Party and the Arab Socialist Party. Since its foundation, the alliance has lost four parties because of ideological disputes. Its members are planning to jointly contest all seats in the upcoming parliamentary vote.

Wafd has said it is part of the alliance but that it will have its own list of candidates because it wanted to field more than other parties in the group would have allowed.

Al-Kutla Al-Masriya (Egyptian Bloc)

The bloc includes 14 mostly liberal and leftist parties, including presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei`s National Association for Change, al-Masryeen al-Ahrar, the Democratic Front Party, Masr al-Horreya, Tagammu, and the Sufi Egyptian Liberation Party, the only one with a religious orientation.

Kefaya (Enough)

Trade union leader George Ishak founded the Kefaya movement in 2004, galvanising protests against Mubarak`s rule in 2005 and opposing what many saw as plans to pass power to his son, Gamal. The movement seemed to have lost its momentum but played a crucial role in mobilising protesters when the uprising erupted.

National Association for Change

The National Association for Change is a broad opposition coalition pushing for pro-democracy, constitutional reforms that was founded by ElBaradei and his supporters in 2010. The group was active in the build-up to the uprising.

April 6 Youth Movement

One of Egypt`s most important youth organisations, it started in the spring of 2008 on Facebook to support workers protesting in the Delta industrial city of Mahalla el-Kubra. April 6 maintained momentum of anti-government protests until the uprising, using online networking sites.

In 2009, the group said it had 70,000 members, most of whom are well-educated and politically unaffiliated. Its Facebook page now boasts almost 300,000 members. It is not a political party but regularly mobilises protests demanding faster reform.

Revolution Youth Coalition

Egypt`s Revolution Youth Coalition, formed in the early days of the uprising, is made up of activists from across the political spectrum. It plays a pivotal role in organising protests and has an active social networking profile.

It has said it will field as many as 200 candidates on a list under its name, the first youth group to say it will run.

Bureau Report



First Published: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 12:39

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