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Political Parties in The New Egypt

Posted on the 08 July 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
These represent partial notes taken by me at a conference. The conference was called From Tahrir: Revolution or Democratic Transition? June 4-6, 2011. Oriental Hall, AUC Tahrir Square.
These notes were from a 9:00 a.m. panel on June 5, 2011 called The Future of Political Parties The panel was in both English and Arabic. The speakers were Samer Soliman, the American University in Cairo, Ibrahim El-Hodiaby, activist and researcher, Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, Center for African Studies and activist. The panel was moderated by Nathan Brown, George Washington University.
I did my absolute best to create a verbatim transcription. Any errors are my own. 
Abdel Ghaffr Shokr
The Muslim Brotherhood are financing the party and establishing their Constitution. This is the political wing of a religious movement. 
The problem is the remainder of the political thought. Concerning the future of political parties. The parties law caused more limitations. It said 5000 members. Did not solve the problem of financing. There is a lack of equitable competition if you hide behind the veil of religion, it is not equitable. There is a weakness of the youth of the Revolution in forming structures for themselves.  
Western countries and Gulf countries are pumping a lot of money into Egypt to make Egypt follow their model.
There is a social schism. Everyone is establishing a party to call for their needs. There are new activists. Millions of people want to be activists. Egyptian people want to live with integrity and respect. There is a ferocious kind of conflict to determine the future of Egypt, whether it will be an Islamist country. People are hating authoritarianism. Revolutionaries can lobby to get SCAF to do what they want. This makes the outlook a little optimistic. I believe that Egypt is on its way to democracy.
Dr. Samer Soliman
The challenges facing newly founded democratic parties are many. The Democratic Front party. They are well organized. Tagamoo was there. Before the 25th of January, the NDP was not a party. It was a network of profiteering, and interests and security. 
Post the 23rd of July Revolution [Author's note ?] Parties had the same message. The Opposition was asked to go on opposing for life. If they were accepted, they were just pressure lobbies. This changed after the Revolution. 
We have the old parties. There are 24 old parties. They don't live up to the definition of parties. El Wafd, Nasserites, Political Front. Most of the old parties are without ideological orientation. For example, an ideology of Anti-Nasserism. These parties are characterized by senility and stagnation. 
There are younger parties. New parties, and new faces. In the old parties, money plays an important role. The elite that we are facing. Yesterday, we were meeting with the minister of finance. There should be a law enacted to reduce taxation in our view. He said that there is no single person who is for real estate taxation. [Author's note: there is a lot of uncontrolled real estate speculation in Cairo. It is a real urban planning problem. If you taxed these developments, it would control it somewhat] 
There are real challenges facing the civil based parties. First, there is a lack of social depth. No common goals. Parties are made up of individuals, not social groups. The most dynamic area in society under Mubarak was in religion.  Religion was a very vibrant domain. The federation of labor unions is dying. It was supported by the NDP, but now they are supporting the SCAF. Independent trade unionist leaders are very promising, but not very politically mature.
Second, the One million man march slogans included "we don't want parties." Tagamoo had a platform. Wanted to dismantle parties. Some don't want parties.. Don't want to join or establish an organization. The 6th of April movement was influenced by Serbia.
The youth group will not turn immediately into parties.
The third challenge is the absence of institutions. Now we have the party of Naguib Sawiris. You need to shed light on who the major members are.
Fourth, there is a challenge of the legislative and institutional framework. The SCAF needs to find a new mode of discussion. They met the Coalition of Youth for the Revolution for two hours. The Command structure of the SCAF takes us back to the Nasserite era. They are adopting a semi-authoritarian regime structure [Author's note, where is the semi, I only see authoritarian!]
They want proportional representation. This includes women and non-Muslims. A proportional list is the most suitable solution for Egypt. The SCAF has been running the country for four months, yet no party has been asked to sit down with them. Parliamentarian representation should include half laborers and half farmers. In the past, those seats were given to people who were not really farmers. [Not sure if the word used here was fellaheen?]
The religious schism emanates from the history of Egypt. It is changing rapidly and sharply. I would share the optimism of Ghaffr. There are small sporadic parties. The upcoming Parliament may be fragmented. Representation will be very difficult for the transition period. This Parliament has to draft the Constitution. We need to look forward to the elections of 2016. Hopefully, five or six new parties can actually survive. The public needs to choose its own parties.
The Parliament may only go on for a year. The SCAF says that the Parliament will go on longer. We have heard about a party that has run a lot of advertisements. Now, I disagree with Shokr that some parties have received money from abroad. We have to stop poisoning the political atmosphere without proof.
Do not discriminate against parties without reference. There is total equality between all political parties within {?}
Question and Answer
Q: The Islamic current should mature. But Al Ikhwan says power is not in the hands of the people. Rather itis in the hands of the fatwas and Islamic scholars. Is the Brotherhood feeling excluded? Does this lead to higher demands? Q: How do we unify parties? Q: Will there be a rule against receiving money from a foreign country? Q: What is the strategy about local elections?

Answer: Samer Soliman
There is no municipal law nowadays. We do not have a relevant law re managing their administration. One of the pressing demands of the revolution was to elect governors. The condition of collecting the 5000 signatures forced parties to go into rural areas.

Answer: Abdel Ghaffr Shokr
There is a law which punishes those who receive foreign funding. There needs to be a balance in Parliament so we can write the Constitution. There should be leeway for independent candidates.
Answer: Ibrahim El Hodhiaby
One party is worried that the Islamists are growing in numbers. Islamists are moving into new territories. Moving as if expecting new list to fall. We should find some common ground between the Muslim Brotherhood and the civil parties. Let us first find common ground. I believe that there is a difference between the different political parties expectations and their Parliament. The representation of the MB is not going to exceed a certain amount.

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