Politics ‘nearly dead’ in Egypt, general situation frustrates everyone: Zahran

Ahmed Al-Fayed
11 Min Read

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party is preparing for running in the local municipalities’ elections through forming appropriate alliances that have political power on the ground. The party stressed its opposition to the tight security measures against politicians, and to how the regime had closed the door for political parties which operate through legitimate channels, as well as the current economic policies.

Daily News Egypt sat down with Farid Zahran, chairperson of the Egyptian Social Democratic party, to talk about the current political scene, the inclusion of the military in everyday life, reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and current economic policies.

How do you evaluate the current political scene?

I believe that the current political scene is witnessing a historically unprecedented deterioration, as a result of the restrictions imposed on political life in the last period.

The deterioration of political life in Egypt frustrates everyone, and made many people reconsider participation in political life in Egypt.

Some political parties do not mind surrendering all public and private freedoms and rights in exchange for security and stability, which led to the deterioration of political life recently.

The current political scene is reminiscent of the situation before 25 January 2011, as there were hypocrites, beneficiaries, and supporters of the ruling political regime, not to mention political groups dedicated to political hypocrisy.

Do you think the National Democratic Party (NDP) will come back in a new form?

Of course I expect the return of the idea of one ruling party which controls the country represented in the new NDP, given that some voices from inside and outside the current regime are calling for its return.

Such calls are accompanied by a smearing campaign of the opposition’s political parties, accusing them of treason in an attempt to limit political scene.

Have we reached a state of political death in Egypt?

We are almost there. This period is very similar to the one that preceded the 25 January Revolution; however, we try to cling to life before politics dies again.

Why does the government always say that the opposition is irresponsible?

What would it say other than that? The ruling political regime always describes the opposition as irresponsible, and ignores that this irresponsible opposition is a result of the regime’s power monopoly.

Having a responsible opposition means establishing a political group that has its own programme and vision for managing the country. This should be applied through the devolution of power, which would prepare the opposition to gain authority.

How can the opposition become responsible when it is fully aware that it will not gain authority and exercise responsibility, while its role is marginalised and it is accused of being the devil? Naturally, its reactions appear to be irresponsible in the eyes of the ruling regime.

Do you think the current regime deliberately closed the door for parties to practise politics?

The current political regime deliberately closed the doors for political parties to practise and operate in a right way, and is largely responsible for the situation the political scene has reached lately.

The current regime believes that politics is an abomination of the devil, and the proof is that the most significant government officials always declare that they have nothing to do with politics, while the post of the minister is a political post in the first place.

Why did political entities grow apart after the 30 June uprising?

Unity amongst Egypt’s political powers reached its peak when the National Salvation Front was formed before 30 June. It is normal to go through periods of no political consensus and unity among parties, such as the current period.

The main reasons behind that are the absence of confrontation, the disagreement among political powers about their position in the current political regime, and the lack of a goal or a programme gathering parties under the same umbrella.

The fact that the majority of political powers united to stand up against the maritime demarcation deal and the transfer of the sovereignty of the Tiran and Sanafir islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia shows that it is possible to gather political parties under one umbrella.

Do you think they will unite again?

The next municipalities’ elections will be a meeting point for the parties, especially with the efforts of many political parties aiming to form alliances and joint lists to run in the elections.

What do you think of the military being put in charge of civilian tasks and government roles?

I refuse the reliance on the army in domestic, economic, and political affairs. I can understand resorting to the army and assigning it some of the government’s work in exceptional circumstances. However, permanently relying on the army to solve internal problems is a disaster and all parties will pay a high cost for that, especially the appointment of people with a military background in ministerial and governmental positions.

Do you think President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi would run for another term?

I think Al-Sisi will run in the next presidential election. He has a limited chance of winning if the economic and political situation of the past months persists.

Imposing restrictions on politicians and thinkers, and not releasing prisoners of opinion, despite many requests and pressures, will reflect poorly on Al-Sisi if he runs for a new presidential term.

Do we have a civilian alternative capable of winning the elections?

Life finds its way. Maybe there is no civilian alternative at the moment, but perhaps after a week a good civilian alternative appears. Former president Hosni Mubarak thought that there is no alternative to him except bequeathing his son Gamal, but what happened was beyond everyone’s expectations.

What do you think of Essam Heggy’s initiative?

His idea of forming a presidential team is worth considering and discussing. The party will discuss the idea and the initiative.

What about the party’s preparations for the municipalities’ elections?

We are joining alliances, but each alliance is different according to the balance of power in each constituency.

It is difficult to have fixed, central alliances as there are over 50,000 candidates countrywide. Therefore, the form of allying will vary from one electoral circle to another, depending on the balance of power of the parties that we will engage with.

I demanded empowering young people by putting them in leadership positions in the state’s institutions, political parties, and all governmental bodies to achieve a comprehensive, developed renaissance.

How many youth are on the party’s lists?

The majority of the members of the political bureau of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party are under the age of fifty. Moreover, women, youth, and Copts are heavily represented in the organisational structure of the party.

What about reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood?

I refuse reconciling with the Muslim Brotherhood unless they officially apologise to the Egyptian people and leave the political scene, in addition to dissolving their secret organisation. They made the mistake, and they have to fix it.

What would push me to reconcile with them? The ball is in their court. They have to leave politics and hold wrongdoers accountable.

If reconciliation means merging Islamists in the nation, this is already happening. The Strong Egypt party and Al-Wassat party are both practising politics.

What do you think of the parliament’s performance?

The loudest and bravest voice belongs to the members of the 25-30 Alliance. Those members are the only ones fulfilling their role of legislations and monitoring the government.

What do you think about the government’s economic policies?

They are a continuation of the NDP’s economic policies. It is not a coincidence that many of those in charge of the policies now were prominent members of the NDP.

I am against the application of the value-added tax. It will not bridge the budget gap. Moreover, there are other alternatives that could offer more, including progressive taxes.

Gamal Mubarak’s visions of capitalism are the description of today’s economic policies. They match the prescription of the International Monetary Fund.

What are your suggestions to encourage investments?

Tax incentives alone cannot create an attractive business environment for capitals. The United States imposes taxes up to 50%, while Egypt imposes taxes of only 22.5%.

How will the Egyptian government deal with Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton when one of them wins the US presidential elections?

The Egyptian administration will deal with the next US president the same way regardless of who wins, even though there are slight differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s racism against Arabs and Muslims increases his chances of winning the votes of Americans who want to avoid engaging in any more world conflicts.


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