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The National Democratic Party, the Wasat Party, and the Brotherhood.

Byline: Mohammad Salah

There are more than twenty political parties in Egypt, although only five at the most are known to Egyptians. The rest of the parties take part in no activities and are content to receive a subsidy set by the state in elections, and see the photos of their leaders appear in the press, magazines and state television, if a state official meets with them. Usually, this only takes place during national occasions and other big events. People in Egypt know the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) because its name is often mentioned at political events and in the media, and even in soap operas, films and television programs. The people also know the Wafd Party, leftist Tagammo, and the Nasserists, since they are groupings with figures and citizens who have ideas and defend certain principles. Meanwhile, the Ghad Party imposed itself on the public because its founder, Dr. Ayman Nour, ran in the presidential elections, and due to the related developments. The names of some other parties sometimes jump to the fore, not for their political activities but because of internal struggles. The news here usually appears on opinion pages, and then talk of the incident disappears, after the struggle reaches a dead end.

A few days ago, the Committee on Political Parties, which comprises officials and ministers from the NDP, in addition to current and former judges, refused to grant the Wasat (Center) Party a license for political activity; it was the third time the party's founders had undertaken the political and legal struggle in an attempt to gain a license, to no avail. It was interesting that the committee, in its rejection of a license for the party's deputy founder, Abul-Alaa Madi and his colleagues, relied on the same reason used to justify the rejection of the license the first two times. Certainly, Madi and his comrades will resort to the judiciary to appeal the decision and will undertake another political and legal struggle, whose results are unknown at present. The other two times, they also lost in court, as well as with the committee. Each time, the committee found that the party's program contained nothing new and did not differ much from other programs in the political arena, and that the provisions of the platform this time were the same as in the previous two submissions, which Madi and his colleagues used in their previous applications. The committee did not mention that the reason for the rejection was that Madi and some of the party's founders belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood for a period of time, and that some officials suspect that the issue might be one of "trading roles," and that numbers of Brotherhood followers might join Wasat, if it gets licensed. Then, the party would be an established fact and might compete with the NDP.

In general, Egypt's experience with multi-party politics has required a greater conviction by the powers-that-be that the times have changed, and that the continued existence of "window dressing" political parties does not help the country or its people. People do not believe that the party system is sound, and that democracy has become a reality, since the state "puffs up" some parties and tries to give them an antidote, so that they awake from their slumber and lethargy, whenever the state wants this to happen. At the same time, the state prevents other groups, whose leaders enjoy true political expertise from entering the party system, due to the fear that they will compete against the ruling party, or doubts about their ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. I know Madi personally and most of the Wasat's leading figures, and I am certain that the contradictions between Wasat and the Brotherhood are greater than those between Wasat and the government, or the Brotherhood and the government. Also, the Muslim Brotherhood, just like some state officials, hopes that Madi and his friends do not receive the license.

The political party situation in Egypt requires political will by the ruling party and other regime figures in Egypt, without pressure from the outside world, and leaving behind the issue of presidential "family succession," which has become an all-out battle between the regime and the NDP, versus the opposition, of various political flavors. It is certain that in the Egyptian political scene, the NDP believes that a struggle against the Muslim Brotherhood, which does not enjoy legal status, is easier than confronting real political parties. All we need to do is review the experience of Wasat, since its leaders have sought to obtain the "license" the first time, in the mid-1990s, for it to become clear that the NDP and the Brotherhood believe that the current configuration of the political arena is the best option for them.

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Aug 23, 2009
Previous Article:Ayoon Wa Azan (A Secular, Democratic and Peaceful State).
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