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What are the inner makings of Egypt’s democracy movement? (Part 1 of 2) - Daily News Egypt

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What are the inner makings of Egypt’s democracy movement? (Part 1 of 2)

In order to answer this question regarding the future of Egypt’s democracy movement, we must first stop and look at the parties that make up its internal structure. This will require that we analyse in detail each party within the movement, in order to evaluate their performance and measure their strength in comparison to other …

Farid Zahran
Farid Zahran

In order to answer this question regarding the future of Egypt’s democracy movement, we must first stop and look at the parties that make up its internal structure. This will require that we analyse in detail each party within the movement, in order to evaluate their performance and measure their strength in comparison to other parties. In short, we will be forced to give our opinions and estimations regarding each party, despite the fact that doing so may inspire anger and outrage amongst the parties themselves, who may view such opinions as belittling their role, influence and strength within the political spectrum. Such parties may also claim that in the process of providing such opinions we are classifying and labeling them in a way that is inaccurate according to their core beliefs. However monitoring and analysing this movement is necessary and urgent in order to paint an accurate picture of its future, its role within Egypt’s political spectrum in addition to its relationships with other parties and factions. Most important perhaps in this regard, is the relationship of internal factions within the movement, and the potential for such relationships to cause various parties to merge. At the very least, can such relationships lead to the creation of a single, unified front, assembled under one leadership? Or will the relationship between parties be limited to mere casual electoral alliances? Or, will these parties simply disperse, with any hope for a broader alliance eventually dissolving? Answering these questions will require monitoring the parties that make up Egypt’s democracy movement, in addition to identifying their political orientation and capabilities.


We must first point out that the democracy movement was composed of three main trends following the outbreak of the 25 January Revolution: the leftist movement, the Nasserist faction, and lastly the country’s liberal parties. The first group consisted primarily of the Nationalist Progressive Unionist Party, in addition to a number of other underground leftist groups, among them a number of prominent revolutionary socialists. The second group meanwhile consisted primarily of the Dignity and Arab Democratic Nasserist parties, along with other clandestine organisations led by Nasserist figures from the 1970s. The most prominent parties within the third group were the Wafd and the Democratic Front parties. After the 25 January Revolution however, a number of new parties began to crop up onto the political scene, including the Constitution Party, Egyptian Social Democratic Party and Justice Party, all of whom came together to represent the social democratic movement. This was a new movement, whose goals and convictions had never before been so clearly defined and with such force. Of the other parties that emerged after the 25 January Revolution was the Free Egyptians Party, a liberal organisation, in addition to the Socialist Popular Alliance, and the Socialist Party of Egypt, both hailing from the leftist camp (although the latter was unable to obtain proper authorisation to register as an official party). Many revolutionary socialists after the outbreak of the revolution sought to continue their activities without registering as official parties. The Dignity and Arab Democratic Nasserist parties remained the strongest within the Nasserist camp, eventually being joined by the National Conciliation and People’s Nasserist Conference parties.


Within the leftist camp, there also existed the National Progressive Unionist party, which, according to the opinion of most observers, lost much of its credibility and influence during Mubarak’s reign, the result of accusations launched which alleged that the party had remained loyal to the regime.  This alleged loyalty spawned from the belief held by party members that the primary political conflict raging in Egypt was between that of the country’s revolutionary forces and the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organisations. This took precedence in their minds over the second, lesser of the two conflicts, which was that between the country’s revolutionary forces and Egypt’s power structure. Based on this analysis the party possessed no qualms in allying with Egypt’s power structure, or at the very least failing to oppose it. This led many analysts and observers to claim that the party had become somewhat of an appendage to the regime, having entered into deals with authorities to secure a specified number of seats in local and parliamentary elections. Many members of the National Progressive Unionist party eventually defected from within its ranks, and, with individuals from other organisations, helped create the Socialist Popular Alliance. The Socialist Popular Alliance is largely considered the most attractive and influential of the leftist parties, perhaps due to its success in incorporating youth organisations who helped launch the 25 January Revolution, in addition to the charisma and performance of its Chairman, Abd al-Ghafar Shakr, in addition to a number of other leaders who trace their roots back to the 1970s. Since then, revolutionary socialists, despite their small number, have maintained a prominent place within the leftist movement, partly because of the influence they wield amongst rank and file members, but also due to their organisational skills. The Alliance was also very successful in attracting members from other political parties, such as the Socialist Party of Egypt, who in turn became weaker as a result. The ability of the Alliance to attract a wide range of organisations and personalities to within its ranks served simultaneously as a gift and a curse, as the wide variety of experiences held by its members made it more seasoned as a political organisation, however also made it increasingly subject to ideological division and in turn political paralysis.


Within the social leftist framework there exists a competition and struggle between all parties to become the official representative of the country’s peasants, laborers and working classes. Such parties encounter problems however due to the fact that most of their members come from the country’s middle class intelligentsia. The leftist movement has achieved some small successes in that it has been able to successfully ally itself with Egypt’s labor movement, however unfortunately they have been unable to do the same with the country’s peasantry.


The Nasserist camp suffers from the fact that the National Conciliation Party and the Popular Nasserist Conference possess small memberships and have not been able to obtain the proper authorisation required to register as official parties. Meanwhile the oldest and most respected of the parties, the Arab Democratic Nasserist Party, has become prey to internal divisions, a fact which has significantly weakened its stance within the Egyptian political spectrum. The Dignity Party had previously been considered an important political player, particularly in helping to breathe life back into the country’s Nasserist student movements in the 1970s. However in recent years the party has lost much of its appeal for a number of reasons, the most prominent of which being the rise of internal conflicts between many of its founding members. Other reasons include its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood during the previous Parliamentary elections, in addition to the rise of Hamdin Sabahi as a Presidential candidate, whose candidacy ended up hurting the party more than it benefitted from it, contrary to the expectations of its members. Why was this? Much of the party’s initial popularity can be attributed back to the personality of Sabahi himself. However as his popularity increased both before and during the Presidential elections, Sabahi came to view the party as a burden to his popularity, and so sought to put distance between himself and the organisation.


The Nasserists could increase their power if they can manage to unite their disparate factions, and build a single unified platform with Hamdin Sabahi at its head. Obtaining the support of Abd al-Hakim Abd al-Nasser, son of the late President Gamal Abd al-Nasser, would also help in this regard. Regardless of Nasser’s qualifications or abilities as a politician, bringing him into the fold would increase the Nasserists credibility and strenghten their cause, which in turn would help to unite their ranks even further. Only in this way can the Nasserists exist once again as a prominent movement within Egypt’s political spectrum.


Nasserists enjoy the most widespread influence and support among the low and mid-ranking levels of Egypt’s state bureaucracy, in addition to within labor movements and amongst public sector employees, particularly from within the country’s worker unions. They are similar to the propagators of the strong, hegemonic state theory, in that they both seek to rely on state bureaucracy as their primary source of strength.

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