An Egyptian Soap Opera: Political Parties
Political parties are complex, sophisticated and demand a lot of technical and administrative skills. This is something that was quite missed in the Egyptian context. Political parties in Egypt seem to be lost in translation and there is no quite perception of how political parties should be. So what constitutes a political party? We can sum them up in the following: First, they target to ripen and spread specific ideological perspectives. Second, they target to enable political education and to embolden political involvement of both party members and electoral supporters. Third, they target to develop separable policies and to conglomerate them into a lucid general political platforms to be executed if the party is chosen by the people to govern or push forward by forming a strong opposition. Fourth, they take a vital part in political elections processes at the local, national and regional levels. Fifth, to win election they are obliged to find means to entice enough votes through the accumulation of interests. Sixth, political parties are also considered to take a vital part in the institutionalization of conflict as they offer contrivances or methods through which encounters can be peacefully resolved (Haggar, 2012).
An Egyptian Drama
Political factions in Egypt spend most of their political battles fighting each other’s ideologies or political perspectives instead of developing one. “I have evolved but I did not change” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once said. Evolution of ideas is something that is rarely allowed in Egypt’s political context. Political factions are expected to stand up for the classical political orientations without granting them (at least some of them) the right to evolve. This rigidness is found in the different factions such as the so-called Islamists groups, Liberals, Nationalists, Socialists, etc. This leads to one common thing: continuous fragmentation of political parties. There are more than 40 political parties in Egypt many of which share the same ideology but minor differences led to fragmentation[i]. In each political spectrum you will find multiple divisions and the inability of parties to absorb differences within the same ideological thinking. One will also find Egyptian politicians refusing to accept differences.
Political parties in Egypt have negated, either intentionally or unintentionally, the prospect of political education and how it will benefit and enrich the political atmosphere in Egypt. The involvement of the society within policy making and political decisions is something still absent with the policy formulation context of political parties. The level of intra-party democracy in Egypt is something that could be described as very low (Khazbak, 2012).
Developing policies and programs preoccupying the government seat…This is something that the Freedom and Justice Party is currently suffering from with excellence. The FJP is the first Egyptian party to come to power after the revolution. As much as the Muslim Brothers are perceived as always prepared, they showed signs of lack of readiness. The Brotherhood until today has not revealed a concrete plan when it comes to the administration of the economy. The Brotherhood also accompanies their executive selections with ambiguity in which some well-respected scholars such as Dr. Heba Raouf, a political science professor, described their actions to lack transparency. Egypt’s President, a Brotherhood member, has promised to achieve a number of accomplishments on his first 100 days at office, yet there has not been much done[ii]. The continuous comparison with Turkey’s Justice and Development party (AK Party) is doing them a new favor. Nothing happens in Egypt now without an automatic comparison with AK party and Erdoğan’s Turkey. I personally believe that the continuous linkage between the two parties is now harming FJP.
The accumulation of interest is the key element for ensuring political gains. You can depend on inkinds, bribery, or other means of buying votes. However, one day you will be out of business and you will then understand that the only way for a political party to remain in power is base a strong affiliation of interest around it. This is how winning is done. So the question is can current parties re-understand their roles or should there be new political parties? Are the new political parties being built up bottom-up? Or just like the old ones top-down?
Political parties are considered to be a form of peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms. Political parties representing different political points of view succeed in conducting debates and compromises between the societal factions while maintaining social peace. However, when we see the situation always escalading in Egypt to be sorted out in the streets this shows that these conflict resolution mechanisms are not working. Therefore, the political parties are failing.
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution” – John Adams (Eddins, 2008).
Political parties in Turkey have more experience in party politics than Egyptian parties. This is mainly because of three reasons. The first is the stability of the political system in Turkey for almost 15 years. The second is the Turkish political dynamics that allow the development of a political caliber that has experienced negotiation, compromise and political resolution before taking national offices and that’s due to Turkey’s more advanced local governance system. The third is the political parties in Turkey are more institutionalized than in Egypt. The Turkish political parties, not only the AK party, have a great opportunity of helping in developing the politically diverse and rich political arena in Egypt. Turkey has an advantage over other countries mainly because of the historical, religious and cultural heritage which makes Egyptians more receptive to Turkey than other countries. Turkey is also perceived as the ‘one of us who made it’ as Turkey’s success is quite celebrated and respected in Egypt as well as other Arab and Islamic countries. Therefore, Turkey’s role and responsibility when it comes to help Egypt, constitute an important element in democracy building, and political parties is more important than ever. The Turkish political parties will also benefit from strategic relations with other political parties in Egypt. The bond-ship between the two peoples on multiple levels will draw nothing but gains on the economic, social and political level.
We, as Egyptians, need to understand that political parties are complex institutions that need to be governed and administered via a healthy scientific approach. Do you believe companies should run in accordance with scientific methods? Then what about political parties that are responsible for running countries’ economies and politics? Political parties whether “Cadre” (based on few well selected people) or “Mass” (based on many members gaining strength from its numbers) need politicians, executives/public administrators and financial resources (Schlesinger & Schlesinger, 2006). Moreover, it needs vision and skills. It needs people who understand what political parties should do and how they should function. There is no shame in asking for accepting help from more relatively more advanced democracies like Turkey. Otherwise, I am afraid that we are just building unreal political coalitions and when it comes to real politics it will always run towards the same destination, Tahrir Square!
Ahmed Abou Hussein
Please cite this publication as follows:
Abou Hussein, Ahmed (September, 2012), “An Egyptian Soap Opera: Political Parties”, Vol. I, Issue 7, pp.20-23, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=1877)
[i] Check “A7zab.com” this is a portal that enlists almost all political parties in Egypt and a brief description of each party.
Eddins, G. Z., 2008. Our White House| Choosing Sides: The Rise of Party Politics. [Online]
Available at: http://www.ourwhitehouse.org/choosingsides.html
[Accessed August 2012].
Haggar, R., 2012. Functions of UK Political Parties. [Online]
Available at: http://www.earlhamsociologypages.co.uk/functionsofpoliticalparties.html
Khazbak, R., 2012. Presidential Election Puts Secular Parties to Democratic Test. Egypt Independent, 22 May, Available at: http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/presidential-elections-put-secular-parties-democracy-test-sent-tiny-question-recreate.
Schlesinger , J. & Schlesinger, M., 2006. Maurice Duverger and the Study of Political Parties. Palgrave Journals, Issue 4, pp. 58-68.