Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 - 30 August 2006
Issue No. 809
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Where there is discord...

Is the fragmented left finally getting its act together, wonders Mona El-Nahhas

In an attempt to restore the political fortunes of the seven left groups -- the Tagammu Party, the Shaab Party, the Egyptian Communist Party, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the as yet unlicensed Karama Party, the Egyptian Democratic Socialist Centre and the Justice Centre for Economic and Social Rights -- have agreed to enter into what they term "a socialist alliance".

Diaeddin Dawoud, head of the Arab Nasserist Party, says he is still considering whether or not to join the alliance. Long standing differences between Dawoud and Hamdin Sabahi, the founder of the Karama Party, will weigh heavily on that decision. Sabahi left the Nasserist Party in 2001, claiming Dawoud's policies had led to a deterioration in the party's support and performance.

Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, official spokesman of the alliance and a leading member of the Tagammu, says the new grouping aims at strengthening the position of the left vis-à-vis the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Notoriously fractious -- several of the parties within the alliance are suffering from well-publicised internal division -- the left will face an uphill battle in its attempts to win support and influence.

It will also be competing with a second new umbrella group, the Left Union, which is in the process of being formed. First mooted by late leftist lawyer Nabil El-Helali, the idea taken up following his death by a group of El-Helali's supporters, a preparatory committee with 250 members has already been formed and met earlier this month. A general conference is scheduled for December at which it will be decided whether the Left Union should become a political party or remain as a broad movement.

The majority of the union's founders are one-time members of leftist parties.

"We've already invited members of the Left Union to join the alliance and now it's up to them to decide," Shukr said when quizzed about the possibility of the two alliances joining forces so as to avoid further fragmentation, adding that he foresaw the two groups coordinating their activities.

While reports have suggested the socialist alliance will initially target the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged from last year's parliamentary elections as by far the largest opposition group, winning almost a quarter of the People's Assembly's 454 seats, alliance members deny this.

"We are not seeking to replace either the NDP or the MB, but at the same time we will not allow them to monopolise the political scene," said Shukr.

During the alliance's first meeting, held on Sunday, a general committee was formed comprising five representatives from each of the seven member groups together with eight prominent independent figures.

The meeting also discussed preparations for next month's trade union elections and commissioned nine committee members to follow up on recommendations made in this regard, including preparing a joint electoral programme and list of candidates.

In an attempt to prevent the NDP from hijacking the debate on constitutional reform the alliance is seeking to formulate a unified set of demands. Sunday's meeting also outlined an ambitious agenda which includes restoring the influence of the left on campuses and within professional syndicates, developing strategies to combat inflation and low wages, tackling corruption and supporting the struggle of both the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance.

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