Third way takes the stage
The formation of a new third current in Egypt's political life is giving hope to the country's secularists, reports Mona El-Nahhas
A group of civil political forces announced the birth of a "third current" in Egyptian political life at a press conference held on 28 June at a downtown Cairo hotel, the main aim of which was to oppose attempts to build either an Islamist or a military state.
The third current, which includes around 16 liberal and national political parties, includes representatives of 10 political movements and a number of public figures, all of whom believe in a civil state. Members of the electoral campaigns of former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabahi, Khaled Ali and Amr Moussa are also members of the current.
The group's founding statement, read out by constitutional expert Nour Farahat, stressed that "all forces and figures in the third current will go on working for the continuation of the revolution's aims and the building of a modern democratic state based on the principles of equality and the rule of law."
Members of the third current who signed the statement pledged that they would play the role of an objective and democratic opposition that defended rights and freedoms and maintained Egypt's identity as a civil state.
The third current would also follow up the process of drafting a new constitution, and it would stand firmly against attempts to lend Egypt a religious character, the group said.
All those present at the founding meeting said that they objected to the Complementary Constitutional Declaration issued by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on the grounds that it curbs the powers of the president while widening the authority of the SCAF.
However, because it lacks a clear programme or specific agenda, the third current was viewed by political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie as "a reaction to the ascent of political Islam to the top of the state" and little more.
Rabie doubted whether the third current would be able to impose itself as an influential force on the political scene, or even to stay together, citing ideological differences as a reason for why the current could disintegrate.
News of the proposed formation of the third current had spread a few hours before the run-off presidential elections, in which the competition was limited to an Islamist candidate and a representative of the former regime.
"This is the last chance for all political powers to unite without excluding anyone from the political scene, because we need to restore our national union to be able to battle for the building of Egypt as a civil state," said political activist George Ishaq during the recent press conference.
The failure of civil and revolutionary forces in the presidential elections was due to their inability to unite and back one presidential candidate, speakers said. "This was a mistake, and we have already learnt a lesson," said Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, chair of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party.
The millions of votes shared between Sabahi, Ali and the other revolutionary candidates could have made a big difference to the outcome of the polls if there had been coordination between the candidates, observers have felt.
Asked about the plans of the third current, Shukr told Al-Ahram Weekly that members would coordinate with each other in the upcoming parliamentary and municipal elections by forming an electoral coalition.
"It's time to stand as a united front in the face of the political Islam current and its non-stop attempts to monopolise power," Shukr said, adding that the millions of votes that had gone to civil presidential candidates in the first round of the presidential polls showed the influence of the third current trend in the wider society.
Political expert Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed said that the third current could have a tangible presence very soon. "Their chances of success in the upcoming parliamentary elections are very high," El-Sayed told the Weekly.
"However, that success will depend on how far they coordinate with each other in preparing electoral lists of their candidates. In deciding on which constituencies to stand in, the members of the current should put aside their differences and bear in mind the strength of each candidate, regardless of other considerations."
El-Sayed said that were this to be done, in his view the third current could secure a considerable number of parliamentary seats, creating a political balance in society because members of the now-dissolved Islamist-dominated parliament had to some extent weakened the appeal of political Islam and changed the popular mood.
"This of course will favour the new third current," El-Sayed added.