The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged parties
Just make it look good!

Just make it look good!

Sandmonkey writes:

On beautiful Monday mornings like this one, as I wake up in my bed, happy, well rested, thinking  about what I will do today, a single simple thought comes into my mind, filling me with sense of impending doom and horror that grips me and ruins my day: We are going to have elections. Again. Very soon. 

Kill me now.  

I know how he feels — and professionally I cover elections! Read the rest for a critique of the secular parties' lack of a real product to sell in the upcoming elections. I have no time to expand now, but my thought for a while is that they need to be aggressive — not just in electioneering, but in the vision thing. People respect those who stand for something, and many secularists are so scared of Islamists they hesitate to wear their secularism on their sleeves. I say: go on the offensive, be clear about what you stand for (and that it's not anti-religion), and attack relentlessly your political enemies on their weaknesses, notably their religious hypocrisy. Elections are ultimately about resources: how much money and how many people you have to recruit to your side. But also having a big idea helps — not with the wider electorate perhaps, but to energize your base. This is why Islamists perform well: they have an energized base. In Egypt, secularists seem to have only a demoralized base. 

Chart: Who stands where in Egypt, v2

Click to enlargeI've updated my chart from a few days ago to reflect the narrowing of possible positions (from 5 to 3) and the leftward drift of most parties and personalities. At this point, of the major parties only the Muslim Brothers and al-Wafd are not officially backing the protests as far as I can tell. As always, comments, corrections and feedback appreciated. This chart does not show positions on elections — again, for now no party has called for their cancellation (although some revolutionary groups and Mohamed ElBaradei are suggesting an alternative transition plan) and the idea of postponment has only been floated.  

Chart: Who stands where in Egypt

Click to enlargeAbove is a very, very approximate reading of various political actors position on the current crisis. It is based on the following assumptions:

  • The question of postponing elections is not particularly important to any actor — some are intent on holding them now, but very few have urged postponing them. We can either assume it's not a priority issue (apart from those who insist they take place) or people want them to go ahead.
  • SCAF has conceded on transition to civilian rule by next July and the formation of a new government. The real difference is (1) between those who insist on a firm date for the transition and (2) those who want a NUG now, want a NUG after election or want a not just a new government, but the transfer of SCAF's powers to this government. 

I am putting this up hoping for corrections, feedback, fine-tuning, etc. Let me know in the comments. Of course this chart is impressionistic and I am aware of divergences within the Egyptian Bloc, etc.

For reference on who's who, take a look at our chart of players in the elections (I've only included major coalitions and parties) and this list of Egyptian presidential candidates.

Mapping Egypt's political parties

Update: This post has been updated with a new chart and additional information on parties.

Arabist reader Jacopo Carbonari has offered to share with me the above map of Egyptian political parties, grouped together into their electoral alliances and positioned on axes showing where they might be placed on the religious/secular left/right divide. I had started something similar separately, but using radical/establishment instead of right/left as a divide (I think it's more telling of attitudes towards the army and the current social structure of the country). Jacopo's map also includes a full listing of political parties and our hope is that readers might leave comments to improve or correct it when necessary.

The full PDF document [1.6 MB] includes info on party leaders, and links to the parties' websites and all-important Facebook pages.

On the National Democratic Party

Tahrir Square on January 29 2011, with the NDP building burning in the background

In mid-January, I found myself at a seminar in Rome presenting a paper on Egypt's National Democratic Party. Others spoke about the economic situation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian foreign policy. We all shared a gloomy view of situation in Egypt at the twilight of the Mubarak era and predicted trouble in the year ahead as Gamal Mubarak would make his bid to succeed his father. A couple of days later, I went to Tunisia to cover the revolution there, and then cut that trip short to make it back to Cairo by January 28, the day protestors defeated the police and security services across the country.

My paper on the NDP saw the party as the battleground of elite politics over the last decade, a place where different elements of the regime fought out their parcel of privilege and influence. The prize, of course was first and foremost a claim to the succession of Hosni Mubarak, but also for the less ambitious a place in the post-Mubarak order. In the end the NDP, alongside the security services, were the chief targets of demonstrators (the party's offices were looted and burnt in many places, much like police stations.) The paper was updated after the revolution, but still largely consists of a narrative of the NDP as a battleground of the regime between 2000 and 2010.

You get the various essays, titled Egypt: A Neo-Authoritarian State Steering The Winds Of Change, here (PDF 2.5MB) or just read the intro here.

On Egypt's social democrats

Warigia Bowman of Democratizing Egypt is launching a series of interviews with Egyptian politicians. She started off with Samer Soliman, an AUC professor who co-founded the Social Democratic Party. The interview is mostly personal, but here's an excerpt on Soliman's views of the emerging political spectrum:

The new parties in Egypt are emerging along an entire political spectrum. Some liberal parties exist. The Free Egyptians by Sawiris. The El Adl justice party is very wealthy, somewhat right wing. It is supported by big businessmen. The poor at this moment, and the lower middle classes do not have good representation. Al Ikhwan [The Muslim Brotherhood] represents them to a certain extent, but it is a right wing party. Our party, the Social Democratic Party, is on the center left. The Socialist coalition is a promising party. It has new blood. I am not sure if it is capable of getting 5000 signatures, but they have a fighting spirit. 

In a sense almost every new party in Egypt incorporates some social-democratic ideas, it's the new consensus. Parties for which it is a primary identity will have to devise means to communicate their difference to the electorate.

We hope to be doing similar interviews ourselves in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.