Egypt’s leftists’ falling fortunes
CAIRO - Internal divisions, a marked disconnect with political changes and an inability to formulate a new political vision contributed to Egypt’s leftist parties’ failure in the first phase of the parliamentary polls, experts said.
With that past, even the future does not look bright for the leftist parties, they add.
“Look at the conditions of the left in our country now. It is only about rifts and the failure to communicate with the public,” Hussein Abdel Razik, a leftist veteran of Egyptian politics, said. “This means that the failure of leftist parties and candidates in the elections is a normal outcome.”
Scores of leftist candidates ran in the first phase of the parliamentary elections in 14 provinces in mid- October, either as independents or as part of the four leftist parties’ election lists. Leftists won four seats out of 226 specified for independent candidates. Leftist lists failed to win any of the 60 seats set aside for political parties.
This defeat has led to debate inside the leftist camp on the reasons why the proponents of socialism are losing.
Egypt’s leftist parties, one of them was established in the 1970s, used to constitute a formidable opposition to successive governments, offering a viable alternative to capitalist policies adopted by the government.
Leftist principles, including the need for a fair distribution of wealth, were strongly present in the revolution that ousted longstanding president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Some of the leaders of the anti-Mubarak revolution, including Abdel Razik, were leftist by political affiliation.
Leftists were also at the heart of opposition to Islamist president Muhammad Morsi and the mass protests that led to his ouster by the army in 2013.
Now, however, they are nowhere to be found. Nothing is left of the leftist slogans at the centre of labour movements under Mubarak, his predecessor Anwar Sadat or his successor Morsi.
The failure of the leftist parties to win parliament seats in the first phase of the 2015 elections and possibly in the second phase, which will be in late November, will mean that the parties will be absent from decision-making for years.
This is why some people expect the left to shrivel and die very soon.
Abdel Ghaffar Shukr, the head of the leftist Public Socialist Coalition Party, says the election failure should give leftist parties signals that they need to change.
“This includes these parties’ need to formulate a new discourse that takes ongoing developments on Egypt’s political stage into account,” Shukr said. “The problem is that these parties speak a language that most Egyptians, and especially youths, do not understand.”
Youths were for the most part absent in the first phase of the elections, analysts say. They seem to be absent from the ranks of the leftist parties, too.
Al-Tagammu, Egypt’s leading leftist party, was centred on Khaled Mohieddin, its founder and one of the army officers who staged a coup against King Farouk in 1952, until recently.
The second largest leftist party, the Nasserite Party, was only about its first head, Diaeddin Dawoud, until recently as well. Soon after Dawoud’s death in 2011, the party plunged into endless leadership conflicts, further weakening it.
In Cairo, the premises of al-Tagammu Party seems to be no more than a second-floor balcony sign carrying the party’s name.
Inside the party headquarters, only dusty wooden chairs and tables and empty rooms can be seen, showing the lack of activity inside the party even as it and other political parties should be preparing for the second phase of the parliamentary elections.
Shukr and Abdel Razik were colleagues in the party five years ago. They were part of the party’s socialist dream for years, until Shukr formed his own political party and Abdel Razik abdicated all party work. Some people say they are symbols of the disintegration of leftist forces in Egypt.
Other political forces are prone to shrivelling and dying, too, if the first phase of the parliamentary elections is an indication. Those groups include political Islam, whose sole representative in the elections, the Salafist al-Nour Party, won ten seats in the first phase.
The bleak prospects awaiting both the left and political Islam, some independent experts say, may show the mysterious ways Egypt’s political scene is developing. Only moneyed candidates, parties and some of the members of Mubarak’s formerly ruling party won seats in the first phase of the polls.
The same categories are expected to dominate the second phase of the elections.
Shukr said he does not believe that the left will die.
“The left is about social justice, the fair distribution of wealth and the rights of workers,” he said. “These are ideas and ideas do not die.”