Egypt has allowed for the creation of a new political party to rival the President Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. The Democratic Front will be headed by Osama al-Ghazali, a former NDP leader. He split ways with the National Democratic Party over the constitutional amendments passed in March. He was an academic political affairs writer who left the party and the council because he believed that the party leadership was not committed to political reform. The party is planning to focus on a free market economy and fully democratic nation.
This is a major development in the Egyptian politics because it legitimizes the Egyptian elections. Previously, Mubarak’s party had basically run unopposed and so was able to unilaterally push its own agenda under the cover of the Egyptian constitutional democracy. The only check on the party was through protest and through the rival party of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood had been outlawed, but recently the brotherhood have had key members tried before a military tribunal. According to the BBC, the maxim of the Muslim Brotherhood is “Islam is the solution.”
According to the government, the amendments fought terrorism and promoted democracy. The amendments were pushed by the government as the end of the emergency powers, which were enacted after President Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981. It fought terrorism by allowing the president to send a terrorist case to any judicial authority that the president deems necessary, including military tribunals. Human rights groups are fearful that the unchecked authority given to the president for the prosecution of terrorists will allow for abusive enforcement. Also, it promoted democracy by recommending a multi-party system, but limited those parties by prohibiting a party with a religious affiliation.
Opponents believed that the amendments did not end the emergency power, but rather made those powers permanent. It believed that some of the amendments perpetuated the rule of the National Democratic Party, and set up Gamal Mubarak to be the next ruler of Egypt. The amendments further undercut the Muslim Brotherhood, because it did not allow them to organize as a political group, and allowed for the president to prosecute them in any manner the president desires.
The new liberal party may present a sign of true democracy in Egypt, by creating the tension necessary for the nation to be more accountable to the people. If however, the party does not grow into an actual rival party to the National Democratic Party, then despite its opponents efforts the National Democratic Party may continue to enforce its will unopposed.
BBC News: A Permanent Emergency. 27 March 2007.
BBC News: Egypt Allows New Political Party. 24 May 2007.
Al-Jazeera: Egypt New Opposition Party. 24 May 2007.
Sunday Times New Zealand. Egypt Approves New Party. 25 May 2007.