Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Egypt's Electoral Alliances Leave Leftist Forces Divided
Hamdeen Sabahi is a leading politician in Egypt.
Gamal Essam El-Din, Sunday 24 Aug 2014

Egypt's main leftist political parties stand divided into several opposed electoral alliances, some seeing an Islamist return as the greatest threat, others warning of the return of the Mubarak regime

In a meeting with leftist and liberal political activists on 19 August, Egypt's 2014 presidential candidate and high profile Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi left no doubt that he is firmly against an electoral alliance that was officially launched 17 August by the diehards of former president Hosni Mubarak's defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) aimed at sweeping the upcoming parliamentary polls.

Sabahi opened fire on the so-called "Egyptian Front" (an electoral alliance including two political parties founded by former Mubarak officials) as being a vehicle for the return of NDP politicians to Egypt's political life. "We reject any coordination or dialogue with this NDP-led electoral alliance because its political platform reflects the same policies and attitudes of the former autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak," Sabahi said.

Sabahi unveiled that the "Civilian Democratic Alliance" — an electoral alliance that he founded to bring a number of post-2011 revolution leftist and liberal political parties under one umbrella — is currently in negotiations to join a secular electoral bloc led by the Wafd party. "But if the Wafd decided not to merge with us into one electoral alliance and opted to join forces with the NDP-led Egyptian Front bloc, we will turn against it to defend the 25 January Revolution," said Sabahi.

Sabahi's Civilian Democratic Current includes a balanced mix of three leftist and three liberal political forces: the Karama Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance, the Popular Current, the Constitution Party, Misr Al-Horreya Party, and the Justice Party.

In reaction, however, several leftist and Nasserist forces announced they reject Sabahi's remarks about the NDP-led "Egyptian Front" electoral alliance. The National Progressive Unionist Tagammu, the oldest leftist political party in Egypt, said it does not share Sabahi's view on the Egyptian Front. Sayed Abdel-Al, chairman of the Tagammu, said his party has even opted to join the Egyptian Front alliance.

"We decided to join the electoral bloc of the Egyptian Front after we got assurances that they do not include any former NDP leading officials and that they are one front with us against the return of Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist extremist forces to political life," Abdel-Al told the party's weekly mouthpiece newspaper, Al-Ahali.

Joining forces with the Tagammu, the Arab Nasserist Democratic Party, another leftist force, also said it disagrees with Sabahi's remarks. In a public statement, chairman of the Party Mohamed Abu Ela has even accused Sabahi of doing his best to break the unity of Nasserist forces since the late 1990s. The Nasserist party strongly supported the election of Egypt's ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as president of Egypt in May, also charging Sabahi's Karama and Popular Current with seizing the celebration of the 62th anniversary of 1952's July Revolution to raise slogans against the army and El-Sisi.

Abdel-Hakim, the son of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, slammed Sabahi for joining an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood during the 2012 parliamentary elections against the wish of leftist and Nasserist forces.

Other leftist forces attacked Sabahi for negotiating to join Al-Wafd. Gamal Zahran, a professor of political science with Suez Canal University and a former leftist MP, said "Al-Wafd is a reactionary force that had acted for long as a political cover for the regime of Hosni Mubarak. It does not make sense that a revolutionary figure like Sabahi seeks to join an electoral alliance with a reactionary force dominated by counter-revolutionary business tycoons, like Al-Wafd," Zahran told Ahram Online.

Zahran unveiled that "a number of moderate leftist forces are about to launch their own electoral alliance next week — under the title "The Social Justice Alliance." "This alliance chose not to join Al-Wafd or the NDP-led electoral alliances, because we believe that these two forces do not truly reflect the ideals of the two revolutions of 25 June and 30 June," Zahran argued, adding that "The Social Justice Alliance is mainly composed of former independent MPs with moderate leftist leanings and [that] primarily seek to achieve social justice, institute greater freedoms and democratisation, and rid Egypt of dependency on America."

As for Sabahi's Civilian Democratic Current, Zahran charged that this electoral alliance includes political parties with a Western political agenda. "We are against any reform agendas imported from the West and this is why we opted not join Sabahi's alliance, although I respect Sabahi in person as a respected leftist politician," Zahran said.

Zahran also criticised the Tagammu Party for joining the NDP coalition. "This is an alliance between two different ideologies and visions and it only aims to secure personal interests," said Zahran.

Commenting on the above fragmentations, Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, chairman of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, argued that the dramatic political developments in Egypt since 2011 have exacerbated the divisions among leftist forces.

"Some of these forces, like the Tagammu, believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is the greatest danger to Egypt, while others think that the danger of Muslim Brotherhood should not be used an excuse for the return of the diehards of the Mubarak regime, or that the country be placed under direct or indirect military rule," Shukr said in press interview Sunday.

According to Shukr, Sabahi's alliance rejects both the Mubarak and Brotherhood diehards, aiming to achieve the ideals of the two revolutions of 25 January and 30 June. "We believe that the divisions of leftist forces will only serve the interests of the Mubarak diehards and Muslim Brotherhood and we are trying as secular forces to stand against this likely negative development," said Shukr.


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