Egyptian Political Parties

published in MER147

Alliance (Tahaluf)
An opposition list formed for the 1987 elections by the Socialist Labor Party, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Socialist Liberals Party. Officially identified as the SLP list, since the Muslim Brotherhood, as a religious organization, cannot legally participate in elections.

National Democratic Party (Hizb al-Watani al-Dimuqrati)
The ruling party, created by Anwar Sadat in 1978 out of the existing Arab Socialist Union, now controlled by President Husni Mubarak. Members include many high government officials, provincial governors and public sector officials united by ties of patronage, clientage and friendship. Better financed than any other party and with virtual monopoly over the media. Strongholds are in agrarian, traditional provinces. In 1984-85, it claimed 1.4 million members.* It publishes a weekly newspaper, Mayu (May).

New Wafd Party (Hizb al-Wafd al-Jadid).
Center-right. Most influential legal opposition party. Heir to the liberal nationalist independence movement begun in 1919. Banned in 1953 and reorganized in 1978. A wide and financially solid base, with middle and high-level civil servants, contractors, businessmen and medium-sized landowners as members. An estimated 100,000 members in 1985. The party’s newspaper, Al-Wafd, recently became a daily with a circulation of over 125,000.

National Progressive Unionist Party (Hizb al-Tagammu‘ al-Taqaddumi al-Wahdawi).
Tagammu‘ has the longest tradition as a legal, left party, although it does not define itself as Marxist. Formed in 1978-79 when Sadat split the Arab Socialist Union into left (Tagammu‘), right (Ahrar) and center (NDP) wings. Members are left-leaning intellectuals, Nasserists, Marxists, progressives and “enlightened” Muslims. Strongest support in Cairo and Alexandria, among industrial workers, and in the home areas of its prominent leaders. Claimed 170,000 members in 1985. Its weekly paper, Al-AhaliM (The People) has a circulation of 75,000 to 100,000.

Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan al-Muslimin)
An Islamic revivalist movement, founded in 1928 and outlawed in 1948 and again in 1954. Sadat freed jailed Brethren and legalized their activities. The Brotherhood demands recognition of shari‘a (Islamic law) as the sole basis of legislation. Not a political party, the Brotherhood has participated in electoral politics via the New Wafd Party (1984), and the Alliance (1987). More radical Islamist groups like Jihad (Holy War) and Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) consider the Brothers’ willingness to participate in electoral politics as evidence of their compromising and half-hearted commitment to Islam. Al-I‘tisan (Perseverance), the Brotherhood’s weekly magazine, is widely read.

Socialist Labor Party (Hizb al-‘Amal al-Ishtiraki).
Nationalist-Islamic. Encouraged to form by Sadat in 1978 as a “loyal opposition” to compete with the Wafd and the Tagammu‘. In September 1981 Sadat arrested virtually the entire leadership and outlawed the party. In 1982 it was recognized again after it had supported Mubarak for president. A heterogeneous base in the cities and large towns of Upper and Lower Egypt and the industrial areas of Daqhaliyya and Sharqiyya. The SLP‘s weekly paper, Al-Sha‘ (The People), is gaining circulation and appeal. Its editor, ‘Adil Husayn, is a former Marxist and now a neo-Islamist economist.

Socialist Liberals Party (Hizb al-Ahrar al-Ishtirakiyiin)
Right-wing party founded by the late Mustafa Kamil Murad. Strongly in favor of infitah and the free market. Backed Sadat’s peace with Israel. Trying to move closer to the Islamist movement. Claimed 52,000 members in 1983. Its weekly paper, Al-Ahrar (The Liberals), is not widely read.

Umma Party
A tiny, Islamist-oriented party formed before the 1984 elections, which has little base beyond the family of its leader, Sibahi.

 

*Party membership figures should be viewed with caution: NDP party membership entails no commitments whatsoever except for those who hold positions in the government or the public sector. Only two parties, the NDP and the Tagammu’, have real national organizations with local branches. The Socialist Labor Party and Ahrar in particular have weak organizations outside Cairo.

 

Sources: Gudrun Kramer, Agypten unter Mubarak: Identit'dt und nationales Interesse (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesell-schaft, 1986); Erika Post; and Bertus Hendriks.

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