Can Hamdeen Sabbahi's Popular Current stem the Islamist tide?

Published September 25th, 2012 - 10:45 GMT
Hamdeen Sabbahi announced the launch of the Popular Current party on Saturday night
Hamdeen Sabbahi announced the launch of the Popular Current party on Saturday night

If it weren’t for his surprising showing in the first round of presidential elections in which he gained 17 percent of the vote, Hamdeen Sabbahi would not have been standing before a massive crowd in Abdeen Square on Saturday night declaring the launch of a new political party called the Popular Current.

In his speech, Sabbahi seemed quite aware of the significance of his coming third place in the recent presidential elections.

He was comfortable in his position as the leader of the new party, freely borrowing phrases from former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul-Nasser such as “The people are the leader and the teacher.”

Therefore it is safe to say that Sabbahi is the new party’s center and the Popular Current revolves around him.

Despite the influence of other well-known political figures as well as literary personalities and movie stars, Amin Iskandar, one the leaders of the current, explains that the “Popular Current is coalition of forces that voted for Hamdeen Sabbahi, including those who are already affiliated to existing parties or individuals who are reluctant to join political parties but view Sabbahi as a symbol.”

“Politics will be placed low on the priorities of this new formation, which will instead focus on working directly on social issues such as protecting the environment, establishing small companies to combat unemployment, and creating formations for all those who reject being members of political parties,” he continues.

For example, the Current can organize around one hundred people in every village and neighborhood who then democratically elect 11 leaders, thus creating a national and local leadership, which is contrary to how political parties tend to operate.”

"Meanwhile the United National Front that Sabbahi is calling for – including political parties like al-Karama, al-Destour, the Social Democratic Party, and the Popular Socialist Coalition – will be involved on the political and electoral level,” Iskandar explains.

The new movement has placed social issues at the center of its program, which says that “social justice requires deep-rooted change on the basis of an independent development plan which guarantees equal opportunities, self-sufficient production, and fair distribution.”

Nevertheless, Iskandar insists that the current’s social and economic program is still being worked out.

It is worth noting here that Sabbahi’s al-Karama party was aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in the last parliamentary elections.

Sabbahi’s speech on Saturday called on Popular Current members to stem the tide of Islamist influence, particularly in drawing up a new constitution for the country.

This prompted Hisham Jawda of FJP to minimize the threat posed by the new party in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, saying that the “Popular Current would be wise to do as the Muslim Brotherhood do and reach out to the people and not just play to the satellite channels.”

“After all, why did they not declare their full program clearly?” he asks.

What do you think of the Popular Current Party? Do they stand a chance in the upcoming parliamentary elections? Leave us your comments below!

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