Nation’s Future party to dominate Egypt’s politics after merger
CAIRO - Independent lawmakers are flocking to join a new version of the Nation’s Future Party, creating a pro-government political powerhouse that looks to transform politics in Egypt. More than 200 lawmakers affiliated with the For the Sake of Egypt bloc joined the Nation’s Future Party, making it the first mega-party in post-revolution Egypt.
“Our unity will make us the largest political party in Egypt,” said Mohamed Manzour, the general coordinator of the For the Sake of Egypt coalition. “We have grand goals that cannot be achieved away from this unity.”
The new party will keep the Nation’s Future Party name even though the For the Sake of Egypt bloc was technically larger.
The Nation’s Future Party was founded in 2014 by young Egyptians under Egypt’s internal parliamentary laws. Attempts by the powerful Support Egypt coalition, which also strongly backed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to form a mega-party faced legal hurdles as parliament’s rules do not allow political coalitions to unilaterally transform into political parties.
The Nation’s Future Party controls 265 seats (44%) in Egypt’s 596-member parliament. Owing to the complicated nature of Egypt’s parliamentary system, many members of the party are also members of Support Egypt.
The Nation’s Future Party has called for other political parties represented in parliament and independent lawmakers to join what many believe will become a dominant force on Egypt’s political scene.
The realignment answers calls by Sisi for Egyptian political parties to unite to address criticism over a lack of political opposition.
Egypt has 104 political parties but only nine are represented in parliament. Few political parties, including those in parliament, have a popular presence on the street.
Egypt’s 2015 legislative elections saw a major decline of party politics, with just 120 seats of the legislature guaranteed for parties. While there has been a massive rise in the number of independent parliamentarians, most join loose blocs and coalitions. Before the merger, the Nation’s Future Party, with 53 MPs, was the second largest party in Egypt’s parliament.
With municipal elections set for this year, there are fears the weakness of secular parties could allow the return of Islamists to municipal councils. A new generation of Muslim Brotherhood figures is believed to be preparing to step into politics.
With Sisi beginning his second and final term in office, many Egyptians are calling for a shake-up of a stagnant political scene ahead of parliamentary elections in 2020.
Nation’s Future Party Secretary-General Ashraf Rashad said the party’s growing strength would make it capable of winning the municipal elections later this year.
“Other parties, political figures and lawmakers are welcome to join us,” Rashad said.
He confirmed that his party would continue to back Sisi and his government and would not seek to form a new government before it has an absolute majority in parliament. Rashad remains leader of the Nation’s Future Party, with Manzour becoming his deputy.
The Nation’s Future Party was formed in the hope that it would engage with disaffected young Egyptians. Before the merger, more than 90% of the party’s 250,000 members were under the age of 35. Rashad is 28.
The party merger is important, political analysts said, because it would encourage other parties and coalitions to do the same. Discussions are reportedly under way among several other pro-government parties over whether to join the new Nation’s Future configuration. Opposition parties are considering uniting amid fears they could be left behind.
Magdi Murshidi, a senior official of the Congress Party, a coalition of six liberal and left-wing groups, said his party has invited other left-of-centre entities to join it.
“The political map is changing and we cannot stand idly by and watch,” Murshidi said. “By admitting like-minded parties and politicians, we will be stronger.”
Sisi has said he would like to see Egypt’s political scene narrowed to two or three major parties. Although some criticised the calls to merge as an artificial fix, political analysts said this could give new life to Egyptian politics.
“Against all odds, the presence of too many political parties has weakened our political life, not strengthened it,” said Akram Badr Eddin, a political science professor at Cairo University. “Political coalitions are more capable of winning elections and making their presence felt on the streets.”