Egyptian Current Party
[Note: The Revolution Continues Alliance, of which the Egyptian Current Party is a member, has announced on 20 November 2011 that it suspended its election campaigns in protest of the recent clampdown against protesters in Tahrir Square.]
The Egyptian Current Party is one of many political parties founded in the wake of former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. Many of its leading members formerly belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood’s youth wing and the April 6 youth movement, along with several independent young activists involved in the January 25 Revolution.
Before the Revolution
The April 6 movement played a prominent role in the political efforts that ultimately led to the 25 January uprising, organizing a number of anti-Mubarak marches and demonstrations. The movement eventually split into two wings: The Ahmed Maher Front and the Democratic Front.
The split initially surfaced when some leaders inside the movement announced plans to turn April 6 into an NGO or foundation rather than an unofficial political movement. After some members claimed they were not consulted in that decision, subsequent fissures emerged due to concerns about the lack of transparency and inclusive deliberation in the movement’s decision-making process. Both wings of the movement oppose the idea of turning April 6 into a political party, preferring to maintain its role as a pressure group aimed at lobbying the government to implement key demands of the revolution.
The youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) participated in the 25 January demonstrations, even though its leadership refused to endorse these efforts initially. During the eighteen-day Tahrir Square sit-in, which paved the way to Mubarak’s removal, the MB’s youth wing played a major role in protecting protesters from regime-hired thugs.
Following the formation of the Egyptian Current Party, which some of the Brotherhood’s youth co-founded, considerable tensions grew between the group and the MB. Brotherhood leaders had threatened to expel any members who join any political party other than the Freedom and Justice Party and identified the Egyptian Current Party by name in its directive.
According to a MB member who was expelled in the wake of this incident, the group witnessed mass expulsions following the launch of the Egyptian Current Party. These developments coincided with resignations from senior MB figures including Abdel Moneim Abul Futtoh and former Deputy Supreme Guide Mohamed Habib.
Some say that disagreements within the Brotherhood were the result of differences in political strategy inside the group. Mohamed Osman, a former MB activist, says that some Brotherhood members, especially among its youth, believe in deep transformative change, while the group’s leaders seem to espouse a more conservative vision for reform. The advent of the revolutionary change in Egypt exacerbated these differences, hence recent reports of fissures inside the group after Mubarak’s ouster.
Several of the Egyptian Current’s main founders are also members of the Revolution`s Youth Coalition (RYC), which included some of the MB’s youth and April 6 affiliates. MB youth who joined the Egyptian Current were expelled from the group. As Brotherhood members, these activists had called for greater coordination between the MB and non-Islamist political factions.
A twenty member Supreme Council is tasked with running the party. The Council currently includes the party’s twelve founding members, in addition to eight elected members. The party boasts several specialized sub-committees, including committees for media affairs, party activities, fundraising, and subscriptions.
The Egyptian Current is planning to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections through the Revolution Continues electoral alliance. The coalition includes the Revolutionary Youth Coalition, the Socialist Popular Alliance, the Free Egypt Party, the Egyptian Socialist Party, the Equality and Development Party, and the Egyptian Alliance Party.
Through 280 candidates (out of a possible 332), the RCA is contesting thirty-four (out of a possible forty-six) party list races for the 508-member lower house of parliament. Additionally, twenty-six (out of a possible 166) candidates will contest single-winner seats. The legal framework governing the elections gives the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces the right to appoint ten of the 508 members of the lower house.
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According to Egyptian Current Party leader and former Muslim Brotherhood member, Islam Lotfy, 100 of these candidates are below the age of forty. The majority of candidates that the alliance will field belong to the SPA, according to RCA member Khaled Abdel Hamid. Some thirty-two are affiliates of the Egyptian Current Party. Prominent party activists running in this election include party cofounders, Islam Lotfy, Asmaa Mahfouz and Mohamed Al-Qasas.
Titled “Security, Freedom, and Social Justice,” the RCA’s platform, which it announced in early November, focuses on re-establishing law and order, promoting social justice and closing the income gap between the rich and the poor. It also calls for securing a swift transfer of power from the ruling military council to an elected civilian authority by mid-2012.
Relationship with Other Political Parties
The Egyptian Current is currently merging with the Misr El-Mostaqbal (Egypt is the Future) Party, members of which originally ran an organization called Sonaa El-Hayat (‘Creators of Life’), a religiously-motivated development NGO that focuses on developing local skills and helping marginalized segments of society, including the poor and disabled.
The Egyptian Current has had a tense relationship with the MB, since it is largely responsible for instigating a significant split within the Brotherhood, which barred its members from joining the Egyptian Current Party.
Egyptian Current Party members are also part of the Revolution’s Youth Coalition (RYC), and therefore closely coordinate their activities with the group, as well as organizations with members linked to the RYC, such as the Socialist Popular Alliance and the Justice and Freedom Movement.
The party is a member of the Revolution Continues electoral coalition, which, according to its members, comprises an ideologically diverse set of political actors, namely liberals, Islamists and socialists.
Stances on Salient Issues
Social Justice and Economic Policy
The party’s vision is a developmental one, in that it sees its role as raising political awareness and cooperating with civil society in the pursuit of national projects that would improve the socio-economic conditions of workers, farmers, students, professors and all other segments of society.
The party aims to promote a democratic transition in Egypt in line with the desires and needs of the Egyptian people. It aims to empower the politically, economically and socially marginalized, including women and the disabled.
The party supports the notion of citizenship, meaning that all citizens should enjoy equal rights. It also supports the inclusion of Egyptians living and working abroad in the country’s political life.
The Egyptian Current supports enhancing public services offered to citizens. It believes in every individual’s right to equal opportunity in accessing education, healthcare and housing. It aims to eradicate poverty through job creation and unemployment benefits.
The party further believes that development should also include minimizing the gender gap in education, employment and leading government positions. It supports a fair and equal distribution of national wealth and public services. It advocates for investing Egypt’s academic and professional resources in planning and managing the country’s development projects. It stressed the importance of labor-intensive projects and small and medium enterprises.
Religion and State
The party is not concerned with the burgeoning political polarization between secular and Islamist forces, believing that this division is not reflective of traditional Egyptian society, says party member Mohamed Osman.
The Egyptian Current Party sees Egypt’s identity as stemming from its Arab, African and Islamic roots.
The party has vocally criticized the role of Egyptian media in fostering an atmosphere of sectarian animosity. It released a statement condemning the 9 October attack by military police on Coptic demonstrators that left at least twenty-five dead and hundreds injured.
The Egyptian Current also takes a strong stance against the practice of trying civilian suspects in military courts. One of their founding members, former April 6 member Asmaa Mahfouz, faced military prosecution for her public criticism of Egypt’s ruling military council and had to be bailed out of prison for 20,000 EGP (3,355 USD).
Strike Law and Labor Movements
The party supports workers’ rights to wage labor strikes in demand of better working conditions.
According to party member Mohamed Osman, the party believes that Egypt should seek to achieve complete national political and economic independence from outside powers. It opposes all forms of foreign intervention in Egypt, and believes in the right of the Palestinian people to nationhood, self-determination, and the pursuit of all forms of resistance against the Israeli occupation.
Media Image and Controversies
The Egyptian Current Party is often portrayed in the media as the party that disaffected Muslim Brotherhood youth founded, although a number of its members originally hail from other political youth movements as well.
The media spotlight was cast on the nascent party when founding member Asmaa Mahfouz was accused of inciting violence against the Egyptian Armed Forces, a charge for which she was brought before a military tribunal. The charge was later dropped.
Along with the RYC, the Egyptian Current Party almost withdrew from the RCA one week before the candidate registration deadline, objecting that the SPA was dominating the top positions of all lists at the expense of the youth groups. The problem was quickly renegotiated to allow more youth members to head lists and the RCA was able to submit its candidate rosters before the official registration deadline.
Born in 1974, Mohamed Al-Qasas is a founding member of the Egyptian Current Party and serves on its Supreme Council. He is a former MB member and had been a leading figure among the movement’s youth wing.
After the January 25 Revolution, Al-Qasas spearheaded the campaign to establish other MB parties aside from the Freedom and Justice Party – a position for which he was ultimately expelled from the Brotherhood.
Prior to his expulsion, Al-Qasas also clashed with the MB leadership when he, along with others, refused to pull out of the Revolution’s Youth Coalition when it began adopting positions with which the Brotherhood disagreed. After Mubarak’s ouster, MB youth affiliated with the RYC, including Al-Qasas, supported the Coalition’s decision to organize and participate in Tahrir Square demonstrations that the Brotherhood’s senior leadership officially boycotted.
Al-Qasas had also been part of a Brotherhood youth movement that had called for greater cooperation with non-Islamist political groups. This same movement supported several important demands largely overlooked by the MB’s senior leadership, including workers’ right to strike. The MB youth faction also tended to be more critical than their leaders of the military’s role in managing Egypt’s post-Mubarak political affairs.
Al-Qasas will run in upcoming parliamentary polls on the party’s list in the Cairo district of Heliopolis.
A founding member of the Egyptian Current Party, Asmaa Mahfouz is a former leading member of the April 6 youth movement and a current member of the Revolution’s Youth Coalition. Before the revolution, as an April 6 member, she organized and participated in a number of anti-Mubarak demonstrations and marches.
Mahfouz was born in 1985 and graduate from Cairo University with a degree in business. In the upcoming parliamentary election, she will contest a single winner seat in the Cairo district of Heliopolis.
Islam Lotfy is a founding member of the Egyptian Current and currently serves on the party’s Supreme Council. He once belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood before getting expelled, along with several colleagues, when he took part in founding the Egyptian Current.
A member of the Revolution’s Youth Coalition, Lotfy is planning to run in upcoming polls on the party’s list in Giza’s 6th of October district.
In the News
[Developed in partnership with Ahram Online.]
From Jadaliyya Editors:
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