Pro-Sisi coalition considers forming political mega-party

The plan raised fears of a possible return to the one-party political system of before the revolution.
Sunday 06/05/2018
People walk by a poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo.  (Reuters)
All the President’s men. People walk by a poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo. (Reuters)

CAIRO - A plan by the largest coalition in Egypt’s parliament to officially form a political party raised fears of a return to the one-party political system that was in place before the 2011 revolution.

The Egypt Support Coalition, which is made up of seven political parties and controls almost two-thirds of the 596-seat parliament, announced the intention to form a single mega-party.

The party, which has yet to be named, would work to create a political and public support base for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the coalition said.

“We want to form a party that can back the Egyptian state and also offer support to the president,” said Hussein Essa, a member of the coalition in parliament. “Our party will mainly seek to fill in the vacuum left on the political stage by the absence of efficient political parties.”

Egypt has more than 100 licensed political parties, the majority of which emerged after the 2011 revolution against former President Hosni Mubarak. Many parties were formed by young people who participated in the revolution but had little presence on the streets or in parliament.

Egypt’s 2015 legislative elections saw a major decline of party politics, with more independent MPs elected than those affiliated with political parties.

Political party leaders attribute their lack of presence on the streets to a lack of political freedom and state support.

An election law has left little space in the Egyptian parliament for parties, specifying only 120 seats — about 20% — of the legislature to political parties. The remaining seats are specified for independents. The president has the right to select 28 members of the legislature.

Sisi has repeatedly appealed for Egypt’s political parties to merge.

“The fact is that our country does not need this very large number of weak parties,” said Abdel Monem Said Aly, the former head of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. “The failure of almost all the parties to win seats in parliament shows the true weight of these parties on the streets.”

Only nine political parties are represented in the legislature and seven of those make up the Egypt Support Coalition. It has sought to convince other parties to join its planned political party to build enough strength to defeat other political entities, Essa said.

He confirmed that the coalition was preparing paperwork for the merger and the official formation of the new political party. He said it would work to overcome Egypt’s economic, social and political problems with hopes that it could form the next government.

“We hope that our move will inspire other political parties to follow in our footsteps,” Essa said.

The move by the Egypt Support Coalition is causing concern amid fears of a return to the era when Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) wielded control over the country´s political scene. The powerful Egypt Support bloc has already faced accusations that it was monopolising parliamentary decision-making.

Critics also said the immensely popular Sisi is hardly in need of official support from any political party. Sisi, who ran as an independent candidate in previous elections, won more than 95% of the vote in both the 2014 and 2018 elections.

“The coalition, which controls everything inside parliament is not expected to act differently when it becomes a political party,” said Abdel Hamid Kamal, a member of the rival 25-30 parliamentary coalition. “The new party will do nothing but manipulate the political stage and marginalise other political entities under the claim of supporting the Egyptian state and the president.”

The Egypt Support Coalition vehemently denied that accusation. It said it would form a political party only to allow for the presence of strong political entities on the political stage.

“We cannot act like the formerly ruling NDP because if we act like it we will meet its fate for sure,” Essa said. “Our party will be totally different, of course.”