Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1317, (27 October - 2 November 2016)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1317, (27 October - 2 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Resurrecting a ruling party?

Mona El-Nahhas writes on growing speculation that the launch of a new party to support the executive is imminent

Al-Ahram Weekly

Will the president form a political party? The media has been mulling the question since President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi met with the editors-in-chief of state-owned newspapers in mid-October. During the meeting Al-Sisi said there “has been debate over the lack of a political support base” and added that “the topic will be discussed at Egypt’s National Youth Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh.”

Talk about a party to support the presidency is not new. In the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary polls, members of the Support Egypt electoral coalition repeatedly announced they were standing to back the president’s policies.

In previous statements Al-Sisi seemed content with strong popular support and insisted his rule would not rely on a single party. Has his position changed?

Many commentators expect the announcement of a new party will be made very soon. Since Article 140 of the 2014 constitution bans the president from occupying any partisan post during his term in office they assume the president will assign a regime loyalist to chair the party.

Political analysts are divided over the wisdom of any such move.

In an article published in Al-Ahram on 15 October Hoda Gamal Abdel-Nasser, daughter of the late president, argued in favour of founding a 30 June party that would support Al-Sisi’s policies.

Interviewed by Al-Ahram on 20 October Salah Hassaballah, a leading member of the Support Egypt Coalition, said a strong political party backing the state was an urgent necessity. The would-be ruling party should be built on solid popular support and possess the kind of credibility in the street that existing political parties lack.

Supporters of the idea argue that such a party will act as a link between the state and the people and is essential as a tool to convince the public of the inevitability of regime policies at a time of acute economic crisis.

Political science professor Tarek Fahmi welcomes the idea, though only if certain conditions are met. “First, the party must be generally popular, with the president’s supporters from across Egypt joining its ranks. It must have a clear vision and political and economic ideology,” he says.

Political analyst Hassan Nafaa opposes the idea, warning that it will destroy any semblance of a nascent political plurality and drag Egypt into a new crisis.

“To found a political entity exclusively to support the regime is a reversal of the political procedures that apply in democratic countries where the head of the executive emerges from the ranks of an already existing political party.”

Nafaa has called on Al-Sisi to reject such a move. He characterises those calling for what is effectively the resurrection of a ruling party as hypocrites seeking personal gain and warns that establishing such a party will undermine stability and have a negative effect on Al-Sisi’s waning popularity.

Former Salvation Front member Ahmed Darrag agrees. To win solid public support the regime must implement policies that demonstrate it cares about ordinary citizens. “The important thing is to find real solutions to current crises not to attempt to found a party that will drag the executive into further failures,” he says.

Darrag does not believe a new ruling party could play any role in invigorating political life. Instead, he says, it will serve as a tool for the presidency, raising the ghost “of the now-defunct NDP and its monopoly over political life in Egypt, one of the factors that led to the 25 January Revolution”.

Commentator Abdallah Al-Sennawi is also against a new, pro-regime party. “You cannot build political support by decree. It comes through serious work and from conviction. It requires reconciliation with the people, the release of detainees and amendments to the protest law,” Al-Sennawi told Al-Nahar satellite TV channel.

In an article published in Al-Shorouk on Friday Al-Sennawi wrote: “After two revolutions it is unacceptable to resurrect a pro-regime party that lacks a clear programme, vision or role in decision-making, one whose sole raison d’être is to support of the presidency regardless of its policies.”

What Egypt needs, Al-Sennawi continued, is to build a national consensus over how to overcome the challenges Egypt faces, not the application of a political sticking plaster.

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