Fourth time lucky?
For 10 years, the founders of the yet unlicensed Wasat Party have been trying to be issued a licence to legally launch their party. Having applied three times before, the moderate Islamist-oriented party was denied approval for different reasons. Adamant to begin operations, party leaders announced last week that they would apply next month for the fourth time to the Political Parties Committee (PPC) -- a semi- governmental body affiliated to the Shura Council -- to obtain legal recognition.
The party was denied licence last time by the PPC and then resorted to the Administrative Court, along with 11 other unlicensed political parties. The court applied the law retroactively, having ruled that Wasat didn't comply with the new rules of the political parties law which was amended in 2005. This, despite the fact that party leaders applied in 2004, one year before the amendments were introduced. "The PPC has been stubborn with us in the past three times," Abul-Ela Madi, deputy founder of the party, told Al-Ahram Weekly. "Public opinion is completely convinced that the committee had no objective reason for denying our party a licence. But we will let it decide, once again, whether to accept or reject our party."
The judgement issued by the Administrative Court in January said the platform of the Wasat was "unique", but the party had to re- apply to the PPC with the required number of founders. Madi said that no change was introduced to Wasat's platform, which has an Islamic frame of reference. "No essential change has been introduced to the platform of the party, since the Administrative Court asked us to increase the number of founders from 200 to 1,000 to comply with the new rules of the political parties law and then apply again for the licence," he said.
Madi first applied for a licence in 1997 soon after defecting from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, but he was arrested and tried by a military court for attempting to establish a party that would serve as a Brotherhood front. He was later acquitted, but while Madi was on trial, the PPC rejected the Wasat's application on the grounds that its platform was not "unique" -- a prerequisite stipulated by the political parties law to establish a new party.
Later, the leaders of the party contested against the committee's decision with the Political Parties Tribunal, which on 9 May 1998, endorsed the committee's rejection. A few days later, Madi submitted a second application to establish his party; again he was rejected in September, 1998. The former Brotherhood member contested the rejection with the Political Parties Tribunal, which decided not to approve the party.
"Everyone has the right to form a political party, as long as it complies with the law," stressed Madi. He cited the government's unwillingness to allow political participation by all political forces, including Islamists, because it cannot tolerate the idea of a civil party with an Islamist orientation. However, Madi is unyielding: "I still have hope in obtaining the licence."