On current political moment, future of democratic forces in Egypt: Egyptian Social Democratic Party as an example

Farid Zahran
8 Min Read

Founders and leaders of many parties that emerged after the revolution, including our party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, have taken part in the 25 January Revolution. Long before the founding of these parties, many of these leaders played great roles in paving the way for the revolution and preparing for it.

Besides several other democratic parties, these parties were keen on being part of the battles of Egyptians towards achieving the goals of the revolution. When the Muslim Brotherhood tried to monopolise power and started to create a religious authoritarian state, our party stood against them, together with the National Salvation Front, and took part in their ousting. Our party encouraged the various bodies of the state to move forward after the ousting, and it agreed to allow senior figures in the party to be part of the first government formed after 30 June.

Our party did not support President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on 3 July, and it was not one of the democratic parties that elected him in the presidential elections in 2014, nor was it one of those that announced supporting him.

It is clear now, three years after the elections, that our party, like other parties, has taken clear stances that may have opposed the authority’s general trends. It was keen, on the other hand, to offer clear alternatives for the policies they opposed as the following lines will explain.

First: regarding socioeconomic policies, democratic parties and forces have criticised—in varying degrees of intensity—some or all of those policies, especially those related to the randomness of these decisions.

There was also criticism of the authority’s growing dependence on the army, not only in the management of some political aspects, but also in the implementation and management of several economic projects, something that these parties and forces see as harmful for the army, because it takes away its ability to focus on securing borders and maintaining the country’s safety. These are the army’s main tasks, which we all respect. The army is an Egyptian entity that belongs to the people, supports the people, and helps them through hardships and crises. These parties believe that the over-presence of the Egyptian army in the economy damages Egyptian entities that are deprived of implementing projects that get assigned to the army through direct orders—with no competition whatsoever, which may be beneficial for the market’s prices and quality.

For its part, the Egyptian Social Democratic party considered the socioeconomic policies adopted by the authority contributing to making the rich richer and the poor poorer; therefore, the party opposed these policies, which mostly sought to overbear the poorer and even middle class with the burdens of the economic crisis.

The party offered a group of alternatives to these policies, the most prominent of which was introducing progressive taxes, paying attention to the sectors of health and education as part of the attention given to comprehensive development, and putting an end to the depletion of the state’s resources in projects whose feasibility remains unclear. In addition, some of these policies include directing the army to pay more attention to the tasks assigned to it to avoid putting it in situations that may harm it and leaving room for different economic entities to play their assigned role in development.

Second: regarding fighting terrorism, our party opposes the strategy the authority adopts to counter it. The strategy relies on army and police forces in fighting terrorism, making every power in the state a force that should, by default, only support the army and the police. Our party has always called on everyone to consider the battle against terrorism their own battle, including parties, syndicates, the judiciary, the parliament, and others. So we always called for a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism, as was the case on 30 June, which lead to a strong victory against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third: handing Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia; the party was always against the agreement and considered it an abandonment of Egyptian lands. We are still unsure of how that decision was made and who the international parties the Egyptian state negotiated with were, and who the members of the Egyptian delegation that took part in the negotiations were. We were against the decision even more after noticing that the decision to abandon the two Egyptian islands was not based on any consultation between the state’s various entities. When there was a judiciary verdict that the islands were Egyptian, the authority did not respect the judicial ruling and passed the issue to the parliament. Despite the immense pressure on the parliament’s members, over 120 of them, including the representatives of our party, opposed the agreement and were in clear opposition to the political authority, something we carry a lot of pride in.

Fourth: regarding the policies of tyranny, our party has opposed all the measures that have deprived workers of their right to build their independent trade unions, which is why Egypt was blacklisted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and this comes with several economic consequences. Our party has also opposed the Civil Organisations Law, which deprived civil society from playing its independent role.

Last, our party opposed all security practices that relied on inherited laws that restrict freedom. These practices aimed to erase the 25 January Revolution, its youth, leaders, and parties, from suppressing peaceful demonstrations, to arresting political party figures on fabricated charges, in addition to torturing detainees and putting restrictions on those that call for a new religious discourse.

In the face of these policies, our party called for broadening political and societal participation, as well as the declaration of publishing, expression, and peaceful protesting rights based on the Constitution. The party has stressed before that fighting terrorism will never work without democracy and participation, neither will development or fighting corruption, unless democracy is achieved.

In light of all the above, we can say that due to the practices of the authority and its rejection to alternatives provided by the democratic opposition, the country is subjected to severe political and social tensions that may lead to unexpected major changes. It is importation to try to reach these changes with ourselves in order to adopt the stances suitable for them. What are these expected changes? This is the question we will answer in the next article.

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Farid Zahran is a publisher and writer. He is the co-founder of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party
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