Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1389, (12 - 18 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Partisan support

Political analysts differ over whether President Al-Sisi should form a political party in his second term, reports Gamal Essam El-Din


Archival photo of members of Support Egypt parliamentary coalition during their meeting
Archival photo of members of Support Egypt parliamentary coalition during their meeting

Egypt’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced on 2 April that incumbent President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi had won a second four-year term with 97 per cent of the votes cast.

Political analysts and MPs say Al-Sisi’s landslide victory will lend impetus to calls that a political party be formed to support the president’s agenda during his second term in office.

Al-Ahram political analyst Amr Abdel-Samie wrote in a column last week that “the failure of political parties in Egypt to field a presidential candidate against Al-Sisi reveals the pressing need for a majority party in Egypt to be created. It will be the president’s party and its job should be to defend his policies and stand up to critics and opponents.”

Abdel-Samie said that in his first four years in office President Al-Sisi had been the target of hostile media campaigns orchestrated by Western newspapers and Muslim Brotherhood TV channels broadcasting from Qatar and Turkey. “Al-Sisi was left vulnerable to these campaigns, which included insults and bogus reports, and there was no systemised response. Local private media also joined the chorus of criticism when Al-Sisi approved the IMF’s economic reforms in November 2016.”

Mustafa Bakri, MP and editor of the weekly Al-Osbou, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “after Al-Sisi’s landslide victory in presidential elections last week the logical step is for the president to form his own political party.”

“President Al-Sisi should expect more hostile campaigns in his second term, once again focusing on human rights and economic policies. These campaigns will try to mobilise the public against any changes to the constitution or extra measures against terrorism.”

Bakri argued that should Al-Sisi not form a political party the majority bloc in parliament should do so.

“The majority Support Egypt parliamentary coalition did a good job in Al-Sisi’s first term supporting his economic policies, legislative proposals and presidential re-election campaign,” said Bakri. “But this support was mostly confined to parliamentary circles. In order to expand Support Egypt should turn itself into a licensed political party that will serve as a home for all those who support Al-Sisi and his policies.”

The 470-member Support Egypt coalition was formed following parliamentary elections in January 2016. The coalition, led by businessman and chairman of the General Federation of Egyptian Industries Mohamed Al-Sewidi, includes members from the Free Egyptians Party, the Future of a Nation Party, the Guardians of a Nation, the Congress Party and the Republican People’s Party.

Al-Sewidi told reporters last week that “many members want to turn the coalition into a new political party but the coalition’s leadership has yet to take a decision on this.”

“Support Egypt is in a position to become a leading party in the nation’s political life. We have offices in many governorates, reliable funding from a wide network of businessmen and entrepreneurs, and a chain of influential media outlets including satellite broadcasters and newspapers,” said Al-Sewidi. “The problem is members of the coalition belong to different political parties and it would be difficult to ask them to switch allegiance and join a new party.”

The coalition’s spokesman Salah Hassaballah points out that “turning the Support Egypt bloc into a licensed political party could only happen after parliamentary elections are held at the end of 2020.”

“Then the coalition will be able to field its own candidates who will join parliament as members of the Support Egypt political party. The current election law does not allow MPs to change partisan affiliation once they join parliament.”

President Al-Sisi said in a TV interview during his election campaign that he cannot be held responsible for the weak performance of political parties.

“It is not my responsibility these parties were unable to field presidential candidates. I had hoped there would be 10 names on the ballot paper so the people could select among them,” said Al-Sisi.

“Egypt has more than 100 political parties that seem to offer nothing to the people. They are not yet strong or influential enough to field a presidential candidate but I am sure that in time these political parties will grow.”

In his first term (2014-2018) President Al-Sisi rejected calls that he form a political party. Instead, said political analyst Abdel-Moneim Said in an article in Al-Ahram, he opted to open up a national dialogue with young people.

“This took the form of establishing the Youth Academy and holding monthly conferences which will continue to help young people actively participate in political life.”

In a meeting with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and cabinet ministers on 25 March Al-Sisi said “the new Youth Academy will aim to prepare young people for leading positions in the state.”

“We want young leaders who can maintain the country’s civilian character and offer new visions of Egypt’s future.”

Nabil Zaki, chairman of Al-Ahali newspaper, told the Weekly that “there is no doubt President Al-Sisi will have concerns about agreeing to form a political party.”

“I think he is well aware the president’s party could easily turn into a gathering of opportunists and sycophants, as happened when president Anwar Al-Sadat formed the ruling National Democratic Party [NDP] in 1978.”

“Sadat said he wanted a party to defend his peace treaty with Israel and stand up to his critics and that the party would only include young faces. What happened though is that old guard politicians and MPs rushed to join the new party which then dominated the political landscape until Sadat’s successor Hosni Mubarak was forced from office in February 2011.”

Zaki also points out Article 140 of the constitution states that “the elected president cannot hold any partisan position during his term in office.”

“This stipulation aims to ensure that the president remains politically neutral and will not use the majority party to stay in office for more than two terms,” says Zaki.

“It would be preferable for Al-Sisi to secure the support of political parties which believe in modern democracy rather than form a political party whose only interest will be to monopolise power, as happened under Sadat and Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.”

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