The evidence of the simplistic thought behind these [recently established] parties and their directions is the utter similarity among the parties’ ideas and published principles
Egypt is currently living through a state of political outburst and the sheer number of Egyptians who flocked to establish political parties is proof of that reality. After having once been limited to a corrupt few, the political arena is now open to one and all. The grave problem the country is now facing is the lack of familiarity with the means for political participation, which has led to the emergence of several well-intentioned initiatives that, nonetheless, reflect great inexperience in the fundamentals of political game-playing. I attended several founding meetings for new parties, was consulted on the programs of parties, and was invited to join a number of them. As a result, I was exposed to the ideas behind these parties and their proposed agendas and I reached the conclusion that these recently formed parties were based on one of the following pivotal notions:
1. Some of the post-revolution political parties that were established revolve around public figures - some revolved around writers, others around political analysts and famous economists, others around one or more businessmen, and others around religious speakers.
2. Other parties revolved around a group of friends or revolution comrades who enjoyed working together and wished to extend their bond in a new form appropriate to post-revolution norms. The most common choice these groups made was to establish a political party.
3. Some parties were formed based on their founders’ ability to mobilize support and organize huge crowds. Leaders of this type of party became more like contracted herders rather than political leaders.
4. The fourth group of parties formed after the revolution belong to religious groups; be theyAlthough the intentions behind the establishment of these parties are good, the current political reality – that forced the rushed establishment of these parties, and the ignoring of the rules of the game – led to serious shortcomings in the basics required for a party to persist and grow moderate or extremist. This group decided to express their religious beliefs in the form of a political party that would give a political voice to their beliefs.
5. Other new parties were formed on the basis of historical ideologies that already existed in Egyptian society. However, this category lacks enough popular support to be considered a significant trend in society. Also, most supporters of these parties are limited to the educated classes.
The first three categories are very common among parties that declared liberal principles. The fourth category is represented by the Jama’a Islamiyah, the Salafis, and the Muslim Brotherhood. And the fifth kind represents the left. Although the intentions behind the establishment of these parties are good, the current political reality – that forced the rushed establishment of these parties, and the ignoring of the rules of the game – led to serious shortcomings in the basics required for a party to persist and grow.
The evidence of the simplistic thought behind these parties and their directions is the utter similarity among the parties’ ideas and published principles. The most important thing for the first four groups is to mobilize the greatest number of supporters (and public figures) in order to secure the largest slice possible of the cake of newly politicized citizens who have minimal political experience and are eager to participate in politics. The fifth category has little methodology and failed to resonate and reach out and grow beyond the circle of intellectuals because of the gulf between these parties’ ideas and focus and the concerns of the Egyptian masses.
Three Bitter Realities
The first bitter reality is that if you had put the political parties’ names in one column, and the parties’ goals in another column, you would not – for the vast majority of parties – be able to identify which party matched which goal. You are likely to be able to determine if a party is liberal, leftist, or religious - but within each category, they are all very similar.
Second, post-revolution parties rely on Egyptians’ current fervor for political participation which will certainly fade away sooner or later. They do not rely on building strong agendas and methods that would foster loyalty to a party’s founding principles.
Finally, notions such as democracy, social justice, equality, and others are not enough toStrong parties will be the ones that will build distinct founding declarations that express a different methodology and program and that will be able to deliver these principles and goals to the people, and accordingly will be able to grow and create an impact distinguish a political party. It is the program and plans to achieve these goals and values that should be a fundamental component of a new party’s founding manifesto after the revolution.
Strong parties will be the ones that will build distinct founding declarations that express a different methodology and program and that will be able to deliver these principles and goals to the people, and accordingly will be able to grow and create an impact. Strong parties that will continue to exist (since not every strong party will continue) will be the ones whose members are loyal to an idea and a methodology that outlines the party’s answers to society’s problems, not parties whose members’ loyalties are to individuals or finite groups. The current political reality should not be a reason for parties to ignore elements of strength and sustainability in order to achieve temporary fame that will soon be lost. Parties have to carefully strike the balance between current challenges, that cannot be escaped, and founding principles that will determine their ability to grow and persist.
The approach adopted by new parties will allow them to address the current political situation and will also likely enable them to mobilize acceptable numbers of supporters. But the price they will pay for their lack of methodology and programs will be decreasing popularity. This will happen after the end of parliamentary and presidential elections and after the current fervor for political participation subsides, revealing the sad truth that most parties have nothing to truly distinguish themselves from each other, and nothing that would facilitate their growth and development.
Ahmed Zahran is the Business Development Manager for Renewable Energy & CDM at Tri-Ocean Energy