Egypt is currently in the process of giving birth to a new House of Representatives which would take up its legislative and overseer roles next January for a five-year term. The House will consist of 568 members, half of whom were elected through a slate system and the other half as individuals. The remaining seats which represent 5 per cent of the House, will be named by the President of the Republic. These proportions, however, do not reflect any expected political configuration in the House in terms of parties, ideologies or platforms; the configuration which naturally yields majority and opposition either through political blocs or coalitions. The coalitions form political platforms that address public needs through offering answers to the challenges society faces, and visions to achieve its dreams and ambitions. Each bloc should lobby for supporters and advocates. These are the very basic and significant features of democracy.
The parliamentary system is all about the people governing themselves, and the MP is but a representative of an electoral base. It is thus inevitable that MPs should belong to parties that uphold specific political convictions and platforms supported by their constituencies. Accordingly, individual MPs would not be restricted by their limited individual impact, but would join hands with others who share the same principles and beliefs so that together they form a voting front in parliament. These are specifically the characteristics of political parties.
Political parties are thus the nucleus of political work; their ideologies and platforms are their passport to the public, whether each on its own or through allying with other parties. It is how parties gain windows in parliament whether through majority or opposition seats.
Looking at the upcoming parliament, even before the final results are out, I fail to see any clear party trends regarding the seats won, given the electoral configuration. The features may be found in the breakdown of parliamentary seats won by slated candidates, individual candidates, and those to be named by the President. I also fail to notice any diversity in principles, platforms or policies. I stand confused when I try to grope with indicators that may refer to majority or opposition.
This reality compels us to open the file of political party reform in Egypt, which has long been troubling many, myself included, so much so that I have repeatedly written about it. We stand before a reality that looks shiny on the outside but is in fact ailing. The unconditional freedom to form parties has left us with more than 100 parties on the scene, most of which lack the basic measures for wholesome parties. No measures are in place to check the political inclinations of newly formed parties, or to evaluate their weight among the public or magnitude of their membership. This has resulted in party fragmentation; we ended up with ineffective sham parties.
The suggested reform was to encourage—or force—existing parties to align and form political blocs according to their political leanings and principles, all with the aim of establishing party blocs that would represent, as in all democracies, the right, centre right, centre, left, and centre left. Only then would the differences and areas of rivalry be clear to the public, and these differences would reflect on party principles and platforms, rather than being vague and obscured by divisive intentions.
But how can we do this, in order to reap an effective parliamentary experience, and a true democratic practice that would help our youth grow and develop, and prepare them to participate in and contend power rotation? Once again I refer to President Sisi’s declaration in May 2017 in a meeting with editors in chief of State owned papers; he said: “I have more than once called upon parties with similar agendas and political views to merge, in order to create [a few] strong parties [instead of numerous, conflicting, feeble ones]. Only then will the parties produce calibres that qualify for power rotation. I wish to see parties with the same principles strive towards collaboration and mergers.”
I have repeatedly written about that, without any tangible change on behalf of members of the party map. My numerous editorials which tackled this very concern are dated: 29 October 2017, 28 January 2018, 25 February 2018, 22 April 2018, 27 May 2018, 14 October 2018, 3 February 2019 and 29 December 2019. I even wondered what if the parties fail to voluntarily join forces, and parliament is too overburdened to tackle this predicament, would the President take the lead by sending parliament a legislative mandate or the government a draft law to achieve this party reform? Can we see that in the near future?
27 November 2020