Egypt's liberal parties seek alliance ahead of Parliamentary elections
In a last-ditch effort to gain a foothold in Egypt's new parliament, a number of political parties that came into being after the 2011 revolution have said that they are in serious negotiations to join the electoral alliance led by the country's oldest liberal party, the Wafd Party.
Ahmed El-Boraie, a former minister of social solidarity and a leading official of the liberal Dostour Party, said in public statements late on Friday that a meeting is scheduled this week – most probably next Tuesday -- between leading officials of the “Democratic Current” and the "Egyptian Wafd" electoral alliances.
"The meeting is aimed to turn the Egyptian Wafd alliance into a greater electoral coalition for all secular forces who believe in the ideals of the 25 January and 30 June revolutions and which reject any coordination with remnants of the former regime of Hosni Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party," said El-Boraie.
He also indicated that all of these secular parties aim to achieve a majority in the coming parliament, to turn Egypt's new liberal constitution into a reality on the ground in terms of laws granting new rights and freedoms.
The second alliance, the Democratic Current, currently includes six political forces: the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Nasserist Karama Party, the three liberal parties Dostour Party, Adl Party, Misr Al-Horreya Party and the Nasserist Popular Current.
All these groups came into being after the 2011 uprising and the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, and they also supported the ouster of Mohamed Morsi from office last summer, commonly referred to as the 30 June Revolution.
Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, the other contender in the 2014 presidential election besides winner Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the founder of the Popular Current, told a private television channel programme last week that the post-25 January revolutionary forces would seek to join the Egyptian Wafd's electoral alliance "after it rejected coordination with the National Democratic Party diehards and relinquished cooperation with Mubarak's ex-diplomat Amr Moussa."
El-Boraie revealed that the officials of both the Democratic Current and the Egyptian Wafd met on 12 August to lay the foundation for a larger secular alliance. "We conveyed to Wafd our wish to join its electoral alliance because this will help all secular forces believing in the ideals of the 25 January and 30 June revolutions unite into one bloc capable of gaining majority in the new House of Representatives – Egypt's lower house parliament," he said.
In response, Hossam El-Khouli, a leading Wafd official, confirmed that the 12 August meeting probed the possibility of integrating the Democratic Current with the Wafd-led coalition.
"But we told them there must be internal consultations first before we give a final answer," he said. "We indicated to them that by accepting to join the Wafd alliance, they also accept that this alliance be led by the Wafd Party," said El-Khouli.
El-Boraie, however, said the party's chairman El-Sayed El-Badawi stressed that "the name of the alliance should not be an obstacle for all secular forces to unite together into one electoral bloc."
El--Boraie also disclosed that the Democratic Current forces had proposed that negotiations be held with the Free Egyptians Party, a right-of-centre liberal party founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris in 2011, to join the Egyptian Wafd coalition."
"We want all secular forces to be grouped into one electoral bloc rather than competing against themselves as fragmented factions," said El-Boraie, also revealing that he aims to hold a meeting with Sawiris in a bid to convince him that all secular forces should compete in the coming parliamentary polls as one bloc in the face of religious factions which he said easily win the majority of seats when they face divided secular forces.
Officials of the Democratic Current indicated that they urged President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi twice to amend the new House of Representatives law so that the number of seats reserved for party-based candidates' lists be increased from 120 to 180. The law, passed in June, specifies that 75 percent of the total parliamentary seats, ie 420, be reserved for independent candidates and 20 percent, or 120 seats, for party list candidates. The remaining five percent – 27 seats – will be filled by presidential appointees.
But the Wafd Party does not share the Democratic Current's belief that the number of party seats should be boosted from 120 to 180 seats. Wafd was one of several political forces which voted in favour of an electoral system dominated by independents when the law was being discussed in a national dialogue led by former president Adly Mansour.
According to Gamal Zahran, a political science professor with Suez Canal University, it is clear that all of the Democratic Current members are new groups which lack the money and the traditional familial and tribal connections necessary for candidates to win seats as independents.
"This explains why they prefer the party list system which helps them win seats in parliament through running with other forces like the Wafd Party on a single ticket," said Zahran.
Zahran argued that after Egypt's main secular forces were divided into two following Amr Moussa's failure to bring them into one electoral bloc, the so-called Democratic Current forces found themselves left out in the cold.
"They found themselves like baby sparrows forced to win a race against well-trained hawks and falcons," said Zahran, adding that "as a result, they hurried to the Wafd Party to seek shelter, as it is the party which is the closest to them in terms of ideology and rejection of the Mubarak regime symbols."
The Egyptian Wafd alliance includes the Wafd Party, led by businessman El-Sayed El-Badawi, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party led by Mohamed Abul-Ghar, the Reform and Development Party led by Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, the Conservative Party led by oil tycoon Akmal Qortam, and the Awareness Party led by chairman of Al-Ahli Sports Club Mahmoud Taher.
Another secular alliance, led this time by NDP diehards, is named the Egyptian Front. It includes the Misr Baladi Party, led by former interior minister Ahmed Gamaleddin, the National Movement, founded by Mubarak's last prime minister and 2012 presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, and the Congress Party, founded by Amr Moussa in 2012. It also includes another two minor political parties: Modern Egypt and Al-Ghad, in addition to the Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions, the Union of Professional Syndicates, and the Syndicate of Farmers.
A press conference is expected on Sunday to explain more details about the Egyptian Front coalition.