Problems on hold
Yesterday, the National Election Commission announced the names of the candidates who will be running for president in the upcoming election next March. This set off electioneering which should extend for 28 days, to end on 23 March. A wealth of debate is expected on the political, media, and public fronts as candidates’ outlooks, objectives and platforms come under scrutiny. It will be disclosed how each candidate intends to serve the nation on the local and international fronts in case he is elected president for the four-year term 2018 to 2022.
Throughout the last year I repeatedly reminded my readers that my concern regarding presidential candidates’ platforms was how they proposed to reform the political arena and revive the party scene. My aim is for political parties to rise from their current stagnation and fragmentation to vigorously interact with the public and produce real on-the-ground programmes for national effort. Only thus can they produce calibres eligible for real leadership and power rotation.
Let us first admit that it is the unstructured, unrestricted right to form political parties that has brought us to this sorry political party situation. We crossed over from ‘diversity’ to ‘chaos’. In its Article 74, the Constitution stipulates, “All citizens shall have the right to form political parties by notification as regulated by the law. No political activity may be practised or political party formed basing on religion or discrimination regarding gender, ethnicity, sectarian affiliation or geographic location. No activity hostile to democratic principles, clandestine, or of military or quasi-military nature may be practised. Political parties may not be dissolved except by court ruling.”
The constitutional article and the Law for Party Affairs have allowed our political party map today to boast some 100 parties. This is on paper; on the ground the parties are ineffective, maintain minimal interaction with the public, and have no impact on political life. They are the quintessence of confusion, failure, and incapacity.
The laws and bylaws of party formation should have stipulated minimum membership for a party to gain political and public legitimacy. Now we have numerous legitimate parties, but each includes a mere handful of members, the founders; and their presence and activity on the street leave much to be desired.
Some wonder: must we amend Article 74 if we wish to reform this sorry situation? My answer is no; amending the Constitution is no mean feat. But Article 74 itself includes the provision, “…as regulated by the law…” meaning that parliament or government may propose an amendment to the law governing the formation of parties, that would conform with the Constitution and include requirements which ensure strong, effective parties that generate a healthy party climate, vigorous national effort, and potent power rotation.
Requirements for party formation should not be restricted to party membership but should more importantly bear on the political identity of a party, its principles and agenda. This requirement is crucial towards founding strong party coalitions that would regroup the 100 parties on the scene into a maximum five coalitions covering the full political spectrum: right, centre-right, centre, centre-left and left. These coalitions would be capable of accommodating political perspectives, party affiliations, outlooks and programmes, and would serve to consolidate forces and coordinate efforts to attract the masses. Each coalition would have its weight and impact on the national and political effort.
I do not claim that such a move must be imposed on parties; a starting point would be to call on them to voluntarily join forces to form political coalitions. Should they acquiesce, substantial political maturity would be achieved. But if there is no positive response, are we to allow the current fragmentation and incapacity to persist until the upcoming presidential term ends in 2022 and we are left to mourn the absence of political entities and figures fit to fill the post of president? I do not think that such a fate would be acceptable to any current presidential candidate, nor would it match his national ardour and love for Egypt.
In the upcoming weeks, Watani plans to reactivate its Watani Forum to host party leaders and figures, with the objective of familiarising our readers with the various views on political identity and platforms, and learning of possible intentions of forming coalitions. This will be Watani’s contribution towards what we consider a vital objective, and for which we will diligently look on the platform of each candidate for the upcoming presidency.
25 February 2018