The Egyptian Revolution paved the way for starting anew clean sheet or a new chapter but this is theory, which is much easier to achieve than in practice. Since the revolution, there have been many conflicts between civilians and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and Muslims and Christians as well. The epicenter of president Hosni Mubarak’s ousting, Tahrir square, is filled yet again with more demonstrators wanting SCARF to hand its power to a civilian government. There has been more dead, the temporary government has submitted its resignation to SCAF and just days from the official parliamentary elections (28th of November), everything is unsure. There are different parties and their alliances, as well as the technical difficulties of actually voting as well as the constraints and limitations to the future of Egypt.
All together there are 42 major political parties and 11, which are less popular. Most of them are officially registered and few pending, like the National Party of Egypt(former NDP), Free Egypt(Misr Al-Hurra) Party(former NDP), You Are Egyptian Party(Liberal, centrist position), and Kenana Party(Center left). Out of these 42 parties, 15 of them are Islamic parties, 7 former NDP, 3 Nasserist, 2 Socialist, 4 Centre-left, 7 Center, and 4 Liberal parties. There are as well 11 parties which are old and small registered political formations created before the 25 of January Revolution that played a role of the “formal opposition" during the previous regime but the liability of their effective existence is difficult to certify. There are as well 4 alliances made by the major parties. Islamist Alliance - announced by the end of September 2011, led by El-Nour Party (previously a member of the Democratic Alliance), composed of 5 Salafi parties and The Building and Development Party formed by Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya. Equality and Justice Party (Islamic), El Fadyla Party (Islamic), El Asala Party (Islamic), El Nour Party(Islamic), and Building and Development Party (Islamic). Democratic Alliance - announced in June 2011, initially composed by a large and heterogeneous group of parties, it is led by the Muslim Brotherhood party, Freedom and Justice. The Waft left recently the alliance. Reform and Renaissance Party (Islamic), Egyptian Arab Socialist Party (Islamic), Islamic Labour Party (Islamic), Freedom and Justice Party (Islamic), El Ghad Party (Liberal), Civilization Party (Centre), and Karama Party (Nasserist). Egyptian Bloc - the main liberal alliance, composed by 3 parties in a united list, Free Egyptians Party gets 50% of the places, Social Democratic Party 40% and Tagammu’ 10%. Free Egyptians Part (Liberal), Social Democratic Party (Center-left), and Tagammu’ (Nasserist). Completing The Revolution - announced in October 2011, composed by left and centrist parties. Altyar Party (Youth of Muslim Brotherhood) and by Revolutionary Youth Coalition. Altyar Party (Islamic), Socialist Popular Alliance Party (Socialist), Egyptian Socialist Party (Socialist), Masr Alhuryya Party (Center), and Equality and Development Party (Center).
The most organized parties in general are the Islamic parties. One reason for that is that they have been oppressed and denied political power for over 40 years, starting from Nasser and ending with Mubarak. They have been just waiting patiently and planning carefully not IF the day comes but WHEN the day comes, so they could take the power. During their time when they couldn’t participate in political arena, their formed syndicates, the two most powerful ones, are the Lawyers’ Syndicate and the Doctors’ Syndicate. Through those outlets they were taking over the minds and the hearts of the common people, specifically in the rural areas. It is not only because they want to uplift rural people but want to win their support in the future voting, because they know that only 16 million out of 80 million live in Cairo and the rest are of rural origin. So they have been providing free healthcare and dental care to a lot of villages around Cairo and Upper Egypt. Through their Lawyers’ Syndicate, they have been always vigilant to defend their rights and find loop holes in which they could somehow have some form of political power.
In the past, there was only one major Islamic movement which was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but nowadays it is a little different with 15 Islamic parties, Sufis and at least 5 Salafi parties, also division within MB like the formation of Altyar Party (Youth of Muslim Brotherhood). These divisions and formation of new parties happened because the Islamic parties realized that they won’t be able to convince majority of the people by sticking strictly to Islamic law, they must be more flexible and more centrists in order to win over the majority of the people. Because most of the people even though they are Muslims and believe in Islam, even for them it will be dangerous if a radical party with very strict rules comes into power and that will not happen. That is why now we see also alliances formed as mentioned above. Just by the sheer number of Islamic parties which are 15 out of 42 major parties, they will win majority seats. In more specific, the most likely alliance to win majority seats in the parliament is the Democratic Alliance which is headed by Freedom and Justice Party, 3 other Islamic parties, one Nassarist, one Liberal and one Centrist party. One Freedom and Justice party is the old Muslim brotherhood who are part of the syndicates and have integrated themselves in the background politics through what I mentioned above and will be very effective since the name of the alliance is called “Democratic”, also a relatively small party El Ghad with a leader Ayman Nour. He is a very strong political figure and a symbol of resistance, who was unfairly imprisoned by the regime of Hosni Mubarak, for 5 years. He has a very good connection with the elite of the society and has a lot of foreign backing (financial) from Europe. Both of these parties cover all the socio-economic status of Egypt and that is needed to win the elections.
On the other hand the Egyptian Bloc alliance has also some authority mainly because of the Free Egyptians Party (liberal). It was established by businessman Naguib Sawiris in response to the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood Party of freedom and Justice. It is a liberal party mainly preoccupied with preventing the Islamists taking over power in Egypt and prevents its diversion into a religious state. The party will benefit from the financial capabilities of “Sawiris” and the majority of Christians support him. But likely it will be in a weak position if it seen as only a "Party of the Copts." That is why the alliance was formed with Social Democratic Party and Tagammu’. Those two parties have respectively a good position but they don’t have charismatic leaders to push them to the finish lines.
Now let us not forget the foreign countries’ agenda towards Egypt and who they support to win the elections. We have to focus primarily with US, which has had Egypt as a strong ally for many years and won’t let some government be formed where they will break all ties with US, break up the peace treaty with Israel and go to war. If such a party is backed by US, of course in secret, they would have the unlimited checkbook as well as other smear campaigns up their sleeves to discredit other strong opposition and make them the scapegoat. US has invested a lot of money and time in Egypt, as well profited from Egypt by having bases on Egyptian soil, having a strong ally to count on in Middle East and they will not let Egypt go that easily. Until now it is unclear which party does the US favor but it will come to light very soon.
The first round of voting will be on 28th of November, second round on 14th of December and third round on 3rd of January, from 9 am until 8 pm. This division of voting is because of the large number of people voting for one part and the second part is that the SCAF cannot guarantee the safety of all those people if they all vote at the same time. I am saying all the people because I literally mean ALL the people in Egypt will vote. Anybody who is over 21 and has an ID will be registered automatically for voting, he/she will have to go to their region and just tell his/her ID number and vote. If that person fails to attend the voting, the fines start from 500 eg. pounds or higher. It is very crucial to understand this because this is undemocratic step for a democratic future. They want everybody to vote so that none of the people will have an excuse to say that he didn’t have a chance to vote. There is also a number, provided for people who are unsure for who to vote or don’t have enough information about the different candidates from different parties. It all seems very organized but the problems will start happening once the voting starts, like signs of manipulation of the vote, vote buying, bullying of certain people not to vote for somebody, ineffective voting procedures and let us not forget there might be Muslim and Christian conflict during the voting.
Most of the parties have been having problems with SCAF for two main reasons, and this is why there has been conflict throughout the rest of the months following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. The first reason is that on September 25, SCAF had issued numerous decrees and amendments to the election laws which were approved by the cabinet in a closed secretive meeting despite the parties' rejection of those laws. And that the so-called Constitutional Declaration was released in secret until it was made public on the 28th of September. The amendments were the electoral decree which stipulated two-thirds of MPs will be elected according to the party-list proportional representation system, and the rest via the individual candidacy system. Also that only independents, not party members, can run for the individual seats and can never join parties in case they win a seat in either of the two houses of Parliament. This indeed is a very important factor, which hinders Egypt to move towards more democratic state, because it not only violates the rights of the people but also repeats the same mistake like President Hosni Mubarak did while in power. But the Egyptian people would have none of that so rose again against the military resulting in clashes and more protests. The politically weak state also affected the relationship between Muslims and Christians which has been going on for years but unlike anything which happened at present. This resulted in protests from the Christian in Maspero square where they clashed with army forces which resulted in 28 dead and more than 300 wounded. The second reason which helped boost the anger among parties and the people was that SCAF did not keep its promise to issue a decree banning former leaders of the ruling National Democratic Party from political activity for at least five years. In the upcoming parliamentary elections there are at least 7 Former NDP parties which will be fighting for the votes. These are two mains reasons, as well as delaying presidential election to mid 2012 or by the end of 2012, for people to sit in on Tahrir Square starting from beginning of November. On the 19th of November the Central Security Forces (SCF) together with the military police moved in to remove them. From then on the conflict escalated to 33 dead and more than 1800 people injured all over Egypt not only in Cairo.
There are valid arguments why SCAF must push the parliamentary and presidential elections to later dates because of economic, political and social instability. But there are reasons why they must be held now. For one the SCAF has to keep its promises, which they didn’t do a good job. Second thing is that a parliament must be formed elected by the people so there is legitimacy in the rule unlike SCAF, which just took control over the country after the fall of President Mubarak. Thirdly if the political sphere improves it will automatically improve social and economic spheres. Let us not forget that the Egyptian people already waited for 8 months for these elections which is in itself a long time and my guess is that the time is running out for both sides for the country to get better. Because this way Egypt will retard even more the democratic and liberal notions they have, it might become even more totalitarian. And now with the acceptance by the SCAF of the resignation of the temporary government because of the mistrust in the Military Council, there will be even more chaos. But SCAF has tried to play the political part but appointing a “national salvation” cabinet saying that these problems must be solved politically, they have also played the peacemaker between Christians and Muslims, trying to be a secular power and tried to take some control back in all this chaos. Now the effectiveness of it wasn’t as powerful with many deaths and problems.
Even if the elections are not held on the 28th of November the parties who will be competing are ready and actively want the elections to come sooner rather than later. It will be more beneficial for them, because they will have legitimacy and begin the process of transferring of power from SCAF. Whatever the parties’ motive is to enter the parliament, be it a power hungry, to help the people, to get money or to just be recognized, the mistakes which were done by Mubarak will not be allowed to happen by the people of Egypt.
by Stefan L. Tanev, graduate from Cairo University, Egypt, B.A. of Political Science with minor Economics
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