More than half of Egypt’s political parties join one alliance

The newly established Alliance of Egyptian parties includes about 60 parties seeking to play a bigger political role in the next phase, namely in the upcoming elections.

al-monitor A general view of Egypt's parliament in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 16, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Atef Hussein.

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unity, wafd party, abdel fattah al-sisi, alliance, political parties, egyptian politics

Jan 8, 2019

CAIRO — In an effort to stir the stagnant waters in Egypt's political life, the Alliance of Egyptian Parties — a national alliance of about 60 political parties with no religious or personal orientations — was formed Dec. 22.

According to the State Information Service, 104 political parties were officially registered in the state system in 2018. This means the newly formed alliance comprises more than half of the total number of political parties in the country.

Musa Mustafa Musa, a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections and head of El Ghad Party as well as the executive office of the Alliance of Egyptian Parties, told Al-Monitor, “The main objective of our alliance is to support the Egyptian state.”

Musa said, “All parties involved are looking after the common good of the state by achieving a great deal of consensus among them in accordance with a work charter based on organizing party ranks and drafting regulations that allow all parties to be partners in the decision-making process in order to best serve the nation.”

He noted, “The alliance is mainly interested in running for all upcoming elections, even the local ones. We are striving to play an active role in Egyptian political life.”

The alliance welcomes any new party wishing to join in order to work as a single political entity according to specific, unified goals, Musa stressed.

On the sidelines of the fifth National Youth Congress on May 16, 2018, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for uniting political parties, a large number of which welcomed the idea. Following Sisi's call for unity, political parties began consulting with each other to form this alliance and coordinating among themselves in various political events.

Tayseer Matar, secretary-general of the Alliance of Egyptian Parties and head of Iradat Geel (Will of a Generation) Party, told Al-Monitor, “The alliance was formed in response to Sisi's call to merge Egyptian parties in order to have greater political effectiveness and a real impact, since solo roles are not achieving much.”

He added, “This alliance is a step toward coordinating efforts between these parties and prioritizing their work for the coming parliamentary elections in 2020 as a single competitive political entity able to guarantee a large number of votes. The alliance is currently working on reaching a common understanding formula, avoiding ideological differences and promoting compatibility and integration.”

There is no doubt that the alliance will mainly work in favor of the constituent parties, especially since a large number are small parties, Matar noted.

He explained that the alliance is also in the interest of the Egyptian state, serving to have a strong and effective political life.

In the 2015 parliamentary elections, only 20 parties succeeded in obtaining 238 seats out of a total of 555 seats, or 43% of the total seats; independent candidates won the remaining 317 seats. The main winners were the Free Egyptians, Nation’s Future and Wafd parties, which combined won only 140 seats out of 238 and are considered the largest parties in the current parliament in terms of seat numbers. But they did not join the Alliance of Egyptian Parties.

However, the alliance does include parties represented in the current parliament, such as El Ghad Party and the Egyptian Patriotic Movement. The alliance focuses mainly on forming a political bloc capable of moving stagnant water in partisan life in Egypt.

The alliance serves as an important umbrella for coordinating the work of the constituent parties, head of the parliamentary bloc of the Egyptian Patriotic Movement parliament member Mohammed Badrawi told Al-Monitor.

“The alliance aims to show the world that there is an effective political movement in Egypt, and it carries a positive message at home by creating an effective role for small political parties that have not succeeded in reaching parliament before or lack large popular bases,” Badrawi noted.

The fact that political parties won only 43% of parliament seats in 2015 reflect how stagnant partisan life in Egypt had been in recent years, with voter turnout not exceeding 28.2%. However, in 2012, political parties succeeded in obtaining the majority of seats in the first parliament after the January 25 Revolution. Back then, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party alone, which was dissolved by judicial order in 2014, secured 47.2% of the seats. All parties combined won over 90% of the total seats in parliament, exploiting the political movement produced by the revolution as the participation rate in those elections reached about 60%.

As to the extent to which the alliance can achieve tangible results, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo Gamal Abdel Gawad told Al-Monitor, “The alliance is mostly a group of small parties that, alone, do not have a significant influence on partisan life. But there are also parties like the Egyptian Patriotic Movement with great influence, especially since it was affiliated with former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, in addition to having ties with local bases in different provinces.”

Abdel Gawad added, “The alliance could have an impact if it succeeds in unifying the different visions within it, based on benefiting from the state's desire to have a political entity that includes various parties under one umbrella. In addition, society needs to express its opinion within the framework of strong political entities with clear programs of action.”

For his part, political expert and deputy director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Amr Hashem Rabie told Al-Monitor over the phone, “The alliance may create a role for small parties in the framework of a larger political organization. Yet it is difficult to be sure of its ability to play a major political role in the country during the next phase or be a competitive runner in upcoming elections.”

Rabie noted, “The next election, be it local or parliamentary, will test the alliance’s true strength and ability to play an active role in Egyptian political life.”

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