By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: A number of liberal parties said that they are considering forming a coalition and competing in the upcoming legislative elections with a unified roster and will push toward drafting a constitution ahead of the elections.
Leaders from Democratic Front, Free Egyptians, Egyptian Democratic Social, Al-Waa’y, Justice and Al-Wasat parties called during a conference entitled “Political Parties and New Thought” organized by Egypt’s International Economic Forum, for drafting constitutional principles and separating between the constitution and the next parliament.
“After the revolution, we are working on strengthening the liberal stream which includes all those who call for a civil state,” said Al-Saeed Kamel, general secretary of the Democratic Front Party.
He said that political parties should overcome their differences and rise up to the aspirations of the Egyptian people especially that they had no role in the revolution.
“Our biggest battle must be the constitution; we should form coalitions and the option of boycotting the elections is on the table if the suggested scenario of holding elections before the constitution persists,” said Shady Al-Ghazaly Harb, founding member of Al-Waa’y Party and the Revolution Youth Coalition.
Kamel said that they filed a memorandum to the State Council questioning the constitutionality of the People’s Assembly assigning a 100-member constituent assembly that will draft the new constitution.
Ahmed Atta, a leader at Al-Wasat Party said Al-Wasat settled the debate about the identity of the state as a civil one with an Islamic civilization background; he also called for a civil constitution that doesn’t discriminate between citizens on religious or racial basis.
Participants demonstrated the outline of their economic programs stressing on free markets and inviting foreign investments and focusing on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
“There must be freedom for the investor by encouraging market economy and entrepreneurship and providing youth with equal opportunities, said Ihab Al-Kharat, one of the founding members of the Egyptian Democratic Social Party.
“Corruption won’t be eradicated unless there are effective laws that are applied and independent trade unions and local authorities that monitor various authorities,” he added.
He said that the economy should focus on major labor intensive technological projects and SMEs to lead economic development.
“The most suitable economic system is the one that is built on stimulation; we have a human capital that is capable of turning Egypt into a developed country but needs to be given incentives to release its energies,” Atta said.
“The state shouldn’t solve all economic problems, the private sector must be given a bigger role after tax reforms are adopted that give priority to certain sectors,” he added, suggesting bringing in private sector investments in areas where there is a budget deficit such as health and education.
He called for complete independence of the central bank as a prerequisite for economic development.
“The party’s priority is education but from a local view; we define our national strategic goals and invest in developing education to serve these goals through educational curriculums,” Kamel said.
He said that the party is willing to create a ministry for the development of the desert and turn Egypt into a leading country in the field of renewable energy.
Others focused on civil work as basis for economic and social development
“We are interested in civil work and economic restructuring by engaging civil society and activating it,” said Hatem Azzam, one of the founders of the Hadara Party.
He said that they are aiming at making the Egyptian economy the leading economy in the Middle East in a period of 10 years and will form a majority in the parliament by promoting social reconciliation rather than ideological disputes.
Harb said that Al-Waa’y Party’s main national project is the building of the “Egyptian character” and the creation of a committed citizenship.
“This would entail going to the countryside and marginalized communities and speaking to the people and giving them the opportunity to be involved in the political process,” Harb said.
Harb said that social and economic development could only come through personal development.
“The party wanted to work from the bottom-up to find workable solutions for social ills derived from the people that it most affected,” he said.
However, they said that economic development should go hand in hand with public freedoms.
“Economic reforms must be accompanied with the freedom of thought and creativity; liberty can’t be separated from economic development,” he added.
“The building phase of the revolution is tied to the feeling that we are on the right course but we don’t have this feeling; maybe if the constitution is drafted first there wouldn’t be these doubts,” Harb said.
He said that democracy requires awareness and that a free and fair election might still not be democratic if voters aren’t aware enough to take correct decisions.