Democracy must start with Egypt’s opposition parties

The lack of democracy in Egypt is not just a phenomenon restricted to the government and the ruling party but is palpable in all of the country’s social and political institutions, including its opposition parties–with rare exceptions.

Let me say first state my firm belief that the primary responsibility for this state of affairs lies with the regime, which intentionally sows discord among the opposition while refusing to provide a political and legal climate conducive to the growth of a truly pluralistic multiparty system. However, the regime’s behavior cannot fully explain democratic practices–or the lack thereof–within the opposition parties. Proof of this is the fact that fundamental differences exist in the way opposition parties conduct their internal affairs even though they are exposed to the same excesses of our flawed regime. A comparison of the Nasserist Party and the Wafd Party illustrates this fundamental fact.

The utter lack of democracy within the Nasserist Party since its establishment has led to a strange aberration, whereby the current chairman, Diaa Eddin Daoud, has not been replaced even though his term has expired and despite the fact that he has struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for three years now.

This situation has not been beneficial to the party, as Nasserist leader Ahmad el-Gamal has recently said in a televised interview with opposition journalist Ibrahim Issa on Wednesday evening. According to el-Gamal, the party’s “half-leaders and the half-talented have benefited, while the party itself has turned into a corpse awaiting burial.”

Of course, we all know the crisis of the Nasserist Party began after its general secretary accepted appointment to the Shura Council by the ruling National Democratic Party, which in turn led Amin Yusri, one of the party’s most distinguished luminaries, to resign.

By contrast, the Wafd Party, which itself was almost destroyed by regime’s machinations not too long ago, was able to restore itself and recently held fair and open elections in which the party chairman was defeated–a first in Egyptian politics. This unprecedented democratic event forced skeptics to take another look at the Wafd Party and to encourage those who had left the party ranks to return. Moreover, it made the party attractive to silent majority in Egypt that was thought to have lost hope, an incredibly important development with yet unseen ramifications in Egyptian politics .

This simple comparison suggests that a lack of democratic principles led to the downfall of the Nasserist Party, whereas the re-adoption of these principles rejuvenated of the Wafd Party after a long period of stagnation. This important lesson should not be lost on the parties and factions that constitute the opposition in Egypt.

The ability of the opposition to effect the change Egyptian people desire rests on two conditions. First, opposition parties must rebuild themselves on sound democratic foundations. Such restructuring is necessary to regain their credibility when they speak about democracy. Second, they must coordinate their efforts to establish a democratic regime in Egypt, a task no one party can undertake alone.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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