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Cultures et societes en Egypte et dans le monde arabe - Arab and Egyptian cultures and societies

Egypte: tentatives d'unification des partis "libéraux"

Publié par Wall Street Journal sur 12 Septembre 2012, 11:57am

Catégories : #Egypte

Lu dans le Wall Street Journal:


Egypt's Liberals Try to Unite


Divided Parties Consider Banding Together to Defeat Powerful Islamists in Parliamentary Elections


CAIRO—Some of Egypt's fractious non-Islamist political leaders are trying to get past the clash of egos and ideologies that has divided them and join forces against the Islamist political machine that increasingly dominates the country's young democracy.


At least three separate efforts are under way to build coalitions to present a unified challenge against the better-established, better-organized religious conservatives in parliamentary elections expected within months.

In one recent effort, potential partners met late into the night, taking advice from consultants who specialize in corporate mergers and acquisitions.


Secularists were trounced by the Muslim Brotherhood's party in the last parliamentary elections, but will have a second chance in the coming months after a court order dissolved the Islamist-dominated legislature in May.


Another Islamist victory would give the Brotherhood a dominant role in crafting legislation that would build the foundation of Egypt's emerging democracy. From the perspective of the Brotherhood's opponents, such a loss would mean "that the Islamists are going to change all of Egypt into an Islamic country and it will take 50 to 100 years to win Egypt back," said Mohammed Abu El Ghar, the leader of a push to unify disparate secular-leaning Egyptians behind Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Hamdeen Sabahi, center, is lifted by protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in June after ousted leader Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison.


Yet even the latest attempts at unity have fallen victim to something that has divided Egypt's non-Islamist opposition for generations: competition among leaders to capture the title of Egypt's great liberal uniter.


"The problem is ego," said Shukri Fouad, a leader in the secularist Constitution Party whose stated goal is to offer a big tent to house opposition to the Brotherhood.


"Everyone thinks that he is popular enough or that his party has the chance to have more seats in the Parliament than what he was given within this coalition," said Mr. Fouad, who hasn't yet registered his party for the election.

While the Muslim Brotherhood has religion to unite its followers and a decades-old grass-roots network to organize them, in Egypt's non-Islamist political field, debates about ideology have divided potential leaders from each other and from the voters they hope to represent.


In the latest efforts at forging coalitions capable of defeating the Brotherhood, at least three separate camps offer competing ideologies and boldface names, including former presidential candidates.


One group, the Egyptian Conference Party, is led by former presidential candidate and Arab League head Amr Moussa and made up of several prominent politicians.


Another, the Popular Current, is led by leftist presidential runner-up Hamdeen Sabahi. Mr. Sabahi told local media his outfit has 10,000 membership applications so far.


Messrs. Abu El Ghar and Fouad aim to build yet another liberal coalition. In recent talks led by Mr. Abu El Ghar—with some M&A experts' advice—the six parties reached a tentative formula to determine which candidates would compete in which districts.


Mr. Fouad said he hoped such planning would avert the last election's collapse. Then, plans for a unified party list originally attracted as many as 14 liberal political groups; on the eve of the election, the untested coalition broke down to just three parties amid political infighting. Upstart parties, including those headed by youth leaders whose activism helped spark Egypt's revolution, were left almost entirely unrepresented.


In the end, the liberal bloc took only about 9% of the vote, according to Bassem Sabry, a secular-leaning blogger and commentator.


In a shift from last year, Mr. Abu El Ghar, the head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said he would even welcome parliamentarians from the ousted ruling party to help beat the Brotherhood, as long as they are first vetted for corruption charges.


Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's Brotherhood-backed president, has pledged to hold elections two months after the Egyptian public votes on a new constitution, which is expected to be completed this fall.


Non-Islamist politicians said the time is ripe for a liberal comeback. Polls showed public disillusionment with the Islamists' in Parliament before the high court dissolved it.


Until Mr. Morsi moved to push the military from power last month, the role of Egypt's armed forces stood as a major point of contention among liberals. With the military sidelined, many hope the groups will have more reason to unite.


Mr. Abu El Ghar said the presidential elections showed that 50% to 60% of Egypt's 83 million people harbor secular-leaning sympathies—even though Islamists won three-fourths of parliament's seats in the last election. Mr. Morsi, despite his backing by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood in June's presidential election, was only able to eke out a narrow victory against a member of the ousted former regime.


Since Mr. Morsi was elected, he has sought to assert power over the once-ruling military and moved to restrict the country's media. Liberals hope that voters will want to check the group's expanding authority by denying it a parliamentary majority.


Yet in a country of religious conservatives, where "secular" is often construed as a byword for immorality or Western interference, many politicians who describe themselves as secular in private eschew the term in public.


If liberals or secularists hope to win, they would do better to shift the political discourse away from religion rather than present themselves as little more than a nonreligious opposition, said Khaled Fahmy, a history professor at the American University in Cairo.


"The liberals are trying to stray away from the identity of the Egyptian people. The people sense this and then reject them," said Mamdouh Ismail, a former member of Parliament for the hard-line Salafi Islamist Authenticity Party. "They are theorists more than they are practical people who work on the ground."



Banding Together

Some non-Islamist coalitions emerging ahead of elections:

  • The Third CurrentProspective leader: Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei Prospective members: Mohammed Abu El Ghar's Egyptian Social Democratic Party; the secularist Constitution Party
  • The Popular CurrentProspective leader: Hamdeen Sabahi, left-wing opposition leader, head of the Karama Party and a former presidential candidate. Prospective coalition members: Sabahi's Popular Alliance Party, independents and former members of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition
  • Egyptian Conference PartyProspective leader: Amr Moussa, former Arab League secretary-general and former presidential candidate. Prospective members: former member of Parliament Ayman Nour's Future of the Revolution Party, New Wafd Party


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