We need stronger parties

28-01-2018 09:09 AM

Youssef Sidhom


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Problems on hold

Together with many Egyptians, I welcomed news that President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi would be running for a second presidential term in the upcoming election next March. Given the achievements Egypt has accomplished under President Sisi, his running comes as both reasonable and inevitable. The President announced his candidacy in the recent conference titled Hikayet Watan (Story of a Homeland), in which he offered the Egyptian people an account of the achievements attained during his first four-year presidential term from 2014 to 2018. And what an account! The list runs long with great feats achieved not only by President Sisi but also by all of Egypt: her people, army, and institutions.
I felt pride and gratification as I followed on the successes of the last four years, successes which came in answer to momentous challenges in the fields of reform, development, battling corruption, and fighting terrorism. Mega projects have been executed, and infrastructure upgraded and modernised to set the stage for a future of abundance. This went hand in hand with the tough task of opening up to the outside world in its full diversity, working to attain vibrant communication with all, achieve conciliation where there had been discord, revive and strengthen relations with old allies, and gain new friends from the international community.
President Sisi has masterfully succeeded in leading and modernising Egypt during his first term. His accomplishments set a record in what could be achieved in four years’ time. If he has more ambitions for the upcoming four years, I trust he will embark on them backed with his admirable credit. Add to it the commendable credit of Egyptians’ love, confidence, and support, and this makes him undoubtedly the winning horse on the presidential race. True, everyone concerned with Egypt’s democratic experience would have infinitely preferred to see more presidential candidates with solid platforms; nonetheless, we must admit that President Sisi has deservedly earned an estimably high ranking on the race.
I feel no anxiety regarding the result of the presidential contest but, as President Sisi himself said, the turnout is what should really count. Egyptians should be keen on interacting with all candidates, listening to them, assessing their platforms, granting them equal opportunity to campaign for themselves, then going out in droves to the ballot box. This would constitute a significant step towards democratic maturity, and would also relay a good image of Egypt to the world which will be closely watching. Some may watch objectively to assess the political will of Egyptians; others may watch to find fault, and twist and fake the facts.
On the threshold of the presidential election, I draw attention to a problem of major importance that has been placed on hold. This is the political party map in Egypt, which needs urgent reform. It should come up on the platforms of presidential candidates, since its reform is of no less significance than reforming the economy, education, and healthcare; creating job opportunities, empowering women and young people, and upholding citizenship concepts. In all these fields, the wheel of reform is already rolling and I am confident it will roll further till our ambitions are achieved. But reform of the political party scene in Egypt has not even begun; and it is what I see as the real challenge ahead. The party scene is plagued with inaction, disability, and confusion, and it requires swelling the waters in which it stagnates. Our purpose should be to train and prepare robust political blocs capable of vigorous political and party practice, and of producing leadership figures that would shoulder the responsibility of power rotation.
I hope that President Sisi, or whoever is elected President of Egypt, would give priority to the file of the political party scene. It needs to be handled with the force and enthusiasm with which President Sisi has handled national mega projects. Because this is our only hope for a healthy, democratic Egypt that would safely emerge out of the dark tunnel of long-time presidential authority. President Sisi himself repeatedly said that he aspires for the more-than-100 Egyptian political parties to merge into a smaller number of political blocs with strong, varying platforms that cover the full political spectrum from far left to far right, and everything in between. As such, they would be able to compete to attract the Egyptian public, and in the process produce leaders fit to lead the country.
I will not recall the texts I had repeatedly written on that topic, but I will definitely be visiting it again and again as I follow up on development on that front, whether during presidential campaigns or with the upcoming president.

Watani International
28 January 2018

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