Political parties are deeply rooted in Egyptian modern history, where they originated and have developed along with the development of the concept of the state itself. The early stages of Egyptian partisan life arose at the end of the nineteenth century, then they have emerged and crystallized during the twentieth century, and the first decade of the current century, as a reflection of the prevailing political, social, economic and cultural interactions and conditions.
There is almost a general consensus among political writers and analysts as well as historians that the emergence and the development of political parties in Egyptian life passed through distinct phases:
· The formative phase prior-1919 Revolution.
· The multiparty phase post-1919 Revolution until 1952.
· The phase of single political organization from 1953 until 1976.
· The phase of restricted partisan pluralism that began with the issuance of Political Party System Law No. 40 of 1977 and continued until the January 25, 2011 Revolution.
· The formative phase of real partisan pluralism post-January 25, 2011 Revolution.
· The post-June 30, 2013 Revolution phase.
· The role of parties and the New Republic 2022.
First: Prior-1919 Revolution Phase
The foundation of the Shura Council of Representatives in 1866, despite being a consultative entity, had a role in the development of political life, and in creating a good atmosphere for thinking about partisan work. Some historians consider the National Party established by pro-Urabi in 1879 to be the first political party in the history of Egypt. However, others believe that this party was nothing but a frontal bloc, which failed to be an organization, or to have sufficient means of communication with the masses. It did not seek to access power as one of the most important factors of the political party, but rather it targeted to resist foreign influence, save Egypt from bankruptcy, call for reform and organize education. The practical existence of this party ended by the exile of the pro-Urabi, and the betrayal of some members through their alliance with Khedive Tawfiq. Afterwards, the British occupation for Egypt in 1882 came to turn the page of this party from the map of Egyptian political life.
Historians who study the political parties in Egypt described 1907 as the year of the parties. That year witnessed waves of party establishment in Egypt that made it rank first in terms of the number of parties founded. It did not retreat from the first rank until after the January 25, 2011 Revolution. This was followed by the establishment of an unprecedented number of parties in Egyptian history, including:
The Umma Party: It was established on September 21, 1907, when three political currents that were expressing themselves through the press turned into political parties. It was founded by a group of senior agricultural landlords, senior family heads, some politicians, lawmen and press specialists. Its salient leader was Ahmed Lotfy El-Sayed, the editor-in-chief of “Al-Jarida” newspaper. It was also co-founded by Mahmoud Pasha Suleiman, Ali Shaarawy Pasha and Abdel Aziz Fahmy Bey. The party adopted the liberal thought and conceived that upgrading education and building democracy on the basis of the constitutional system were the only way to achieve Egypt's progress and independence.
The Reform Party: It was established on constitutional principles on December 9, 1907, by Sheikh Ali Youssef, the founder and the editor-in-chief of Al-Moayad newspaper. The party was loyal to and supportive of Khedive Abbas Helmy II.
The National Party: It was established on December 27, 1907, by Mustafa Kamel, the founder of “Al-Liwa’ newspaper”. This name was given to the anti-occupation movement before the party was established. Mustafa Kamel's party considered the issue of national independence and the call for the constitution are on first concern. The positions of the party evolved after the death of Mustafa Kamel on February 10, 1908. It acquired social dimensions under the leadership of Muhammad Farid, so he began to care about trade unions, cooperatives, public schools and other projects. Farid was forced to leave Egypt for self-imposed exile in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany. However, he remained the leader of the party until he passed away in November 1919.
The Free Patriotic Party: It was founded on July 26, 1907, by Muhammad Waheed Bey Al-Ayyubi to be loyal to the British occupation. The newspaper "Al-Muqattam", which in a sense was considered the mouthpiece of the occupation authorities in Egypt, was chosen to announce the party’s program. The name of the party was later changed to the Liberal Party after it had issued a newspaper bearing this name in 1908. This party ended in August 1910 as its founder was convicted in a case of fund misappropriation and sentenced to two months in prison.
The National Party: It was founded in 1907, by the journalist Hafez Effendi Awad, and published its program in Al-Moayyad newspaper, where he worked for ten years. His program tackled cooperation with the occupation authorities, where he said: “We, the men of the National Party, believe that the interests of Egypt and England are the same.” His party existed just on paper, and in January 1908, after Mustafa Kamel founded the Real National Party, it joined the Reform Party on constitutional principles.
Correspondingly, a small party called the "Republican Party" was founded in that year. It called for an end to the rule of the Muhammad Ali family. It was founded by a small group of journalists and intellectuals. This party conceived that the republican system was the closest to the principles of justice and equity. However, this party did not last long and disappeared from the political scene swiftly.
In the years that followed the year of the parties in 1907, others were established in Egypt, including the Egyptian Party that was founded by Akhnoukh Fanous in September 1908, and published its platform in the "Al-Muqattam" Newspaper. Its philosophy was based on the attempt to obtain the independence of Egypt through the friendship of England and won the confidence of the British forces. However, this party did not last long and did not leave an impact on the political life.
Among the other parties that appeared on the scene and did not last long in the years preceding World War I (WWI) were Hizb Al-Ummal (Workers’ Party), which was founded in July 1908 by journalist Mohamed Ahmed, Hizb Al-Nubala’a (Nobles’ Party), which was founded in October 1908, and Hizb Al-Ishteraki Al-Mubarak (Blessed Socialist Party) which was founded in October 1909 and headed by Dr. Hassan Fahmy Gamal El-Din. Its platform included improving the conditions of the peasants, granting pensions to the infirm and sick peasants, and regulating the relationship between them and the landlords.
In 1910, a new pro-English party was founded under the name of the Constitutional Party, by Idris Ragheb, and was dissolved in 1911.
During the period (1907-1918), the National Party was the main player on the Egyptian political scene. It did not lose its strength with the death of its leader, Mustafa Kamel, but continued and developed under the leadership of Muhammad Farid, and was not even terminated when Farid was exiled, but rather continued its activity at home and abroad. When WWI ended, the National Party was the only party that continued with its name, structure and program until the political parties were dissolved in January 1953.
Second: Multiparty Phase 1919-1952
The 1923 Constitution formed a constitutional and legal framework for the political life of this phase in general, and for the partisan and parliamentary life in particular. In this vein, a liberal atmosphere that was characterized by respect for civil and political rights and freedoms had prevailed across the country, foremost among which is the freedom of expression and the formation of parties and associations.
Despite the increasing number of parties and their contrast in terms of orientations, goals and diversity of affiliations, the actual practice showed that the then party system was dominated by one strong party that enjoyed great popularity; the Wafd Party, in light of the continuous interference of the “Palace” towards electoral fraud in favor of the minority parties and the violation of the constitution. This led to the prevalence of partisan conflicts which was followed by a ministerial and political instability. In this regard, some refer to the presence of a general “scenario” to the crisis throughout this phase that was represented in the accession of the Wafd Party to power after free elections, leading to clashes with the Palace, the British, or both. Thereupon, the King dismissed the ministry and assigned the minority parties to form a government, so the parliament that included the Wafd majority was postponed. Accordingly, the King dissolved the parliament, and the new elections rigged in favor of the minority leading the Wafd Party to launch a series of mass strikes, which prompted the King to hold free elections, after which the Wafd had returned to power.
The political parties that emerged during that period can be classified into five main categories:
Liberal Parties: These include the Wafd Party, which derives its name from the Egyptian Wafd which was formed in 1918 to demand the independence of Egypt, as well as the dissident parties, which are the Constitutional Liberals (1922), the Saadi Party (1937), and the Wafd Bloc Party (1942).
Socialist Parties: Including Misr Al-Fatah (Young Egypt) Party (1933), which was later called the Socialist Party, and a number of left-wing organizations such as the Communist Socialist Workers’ Party, the Egyptian Communist Party (1922), Workers and Peasants Party, and the Democratic Movement (1947).
Palace Political Parties: "Parties loyal to the King": People Party, and the Union Party.
Women's Political Parties: Bint Al-Nil (Daughter of the Nile) Party, the National Feminist Party, and the Political Women's Party.
Religious Parties and Groups: The Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and the Islamic Reform Party.
Third: Phase of Single Political Organization System (1953-1976)
This phase began with the Revolutionary Command Council taking several measures in September 1953, such as dissolving the existing political parties and prohibiting the formation of new political parties. Thus, this ends the phase of partisan pluralism, and beginning a new phase that mainly relied upon a single political organization. In this respect, the "Liberation Authority" organization was established in January 1953, and was cancelled afterwards, then the "National Union" was established in 1956, and the "Arab Socialist Union" in 1964 as a new popular political organization based on the coalition of the working people instead of the National Union.
Fourth: phase of Restricted Partisan Pluralism (1977 - January 25, 2011)
This phase came short after the rule of a single political organization during the period (1953–1976). The 1971 Constitution and Political Parties Law No. 40 of 1977 with their successive amendments formed the constitutional and legal framework for this phase. It began its first precursors with President Sadat’s decree in March 1976, with the foundation of three-party platforms within the framework of the Socialist Union. They represented the right, the center and the left, and then turning them on November 22 of the same year into political parties that were the first nucleus of the restricted partisan pluralism in 1977.
According to the amendments made in 2005 to Law No. 40 of 1977, the conditions for establishing parties were as follows:
- The party's principles, goals, programs, policies or methods in exercising activities do not contradict the constitution or the requirements of preserving national unity, social peace and the democratic system.
- The party's failure in its principles or programs, in carrying out its activities, or choosing its leaders or members on a religious, class, sectarian, factional or geographic basis, or exploiting religious feelings or discrimination because of gender, origin or creed.
- The party should not be established as a branch of a foreign political party or organization.
- The party's means do not involve the establishment of any kind of military or paramilitary formations.
- The publicity of the party's programs, goals, methods, organizations, means and sources of funding.
- The party should have programs that constitute an addition to political life, according to specific goals and methods.
- The party should have a different name from those of the existing parties.
The amendments stipulated that a written notification of the establishment of the party be submitted to the head of the Political Parties Affairs Committee, signed by at least one thousand founding members, officially authenticating their signatures, provided that they are from at least ten governorates, and at least fifty members from each governorate (Article 7 from Law 40 of 1977, as amended by Law No. 177 of 2005).
Parties Affairs Committee was formed in accordance with the amendment introduced by Law No. 177 of 2005 to the text of Article 8 of Law No. 40 of 1977 from each of the following:
- Chairman of the Consultative Council (Chairman).
- Minister of the Interior (Member).
- Minister of People’s Council Affairs (Member).
- Three of the former heads of judicial bodies or their deputies who are not affiliated with any political party (Members).
- Three public figures who are not affiliated with any political party (Members).
During this stage, Parties Affairs Committee enjoyed almost absolute power to control and dominate existing parties, through its ability to freeze the activity of any party indefinitely, ban its activity, and cancel it in some cases. The Committee rejected more than 70 requests to establish parties, especially liberal ones since the enactment of the law in 1977.
Despite the legal and procedural restrictions that the process of establishing political parties was subjected to, the continuous refusal by Parties Affairs Committee to authorize the establishment and emergence of new parties, the continuous criticism directed at their performance and positions, and the dominance of the government of the former National Party regime over the decision-making process in it, the impartial Egyptian judiciary constituted a final fortress and a sanctuary to establish political parties.
The number of political parties that were established during this phase reached 24. They differed among themselves in terms of their establishment according to three methods:
- The method of converting the pulpits into parties: According to this, 3 parties were established:
• Egyptian Arab Socialist Party.
• The Socialist Liberal Party (1977).
• National Progressive Unionist Party (1977).
- The method of declaration by Parties Affairs Committee, through which 10 parties were established:
• The New Wafd Party (1978).
• The National Democratic Party (1978).
• The Socialist Labor Party (1978).
• The National Conciliation Party (2000).
• Al-Ghad Party (2004).
• Al-Hizb Al-Distouri (The Free Social Constitutional Party - 2004).
• The Democratic Peace Party (2005).
• The Conservative Party (2006).
• Al-Hizb al-Gomhory al-Ahrar (The Free Republican Party - 2006).
• The Democratic Front Party (2007).
- The method of judicial rulings, according to which 11 parties are formed:
• The National Umma Party (1983).
• The Democratic Unionist Party (1990).
• The Egyptian Green Party (1990).
• Misr Al-Fatah (Young Egypt) Party (1990).
• People's Democratic Party (1992).
• The Arab Democratic Nasserist Party (1992).
• Social Justice Party (1993).
• Hizb Al-Takaful (The Solidarity Party - 1995).
• Egypt 2000 Party (2001).
• Hizb El-Geel Al-Democrati (Democratic Generation Party - 2002).
• Egypt Youth Party (2005).
Fifth: Post-January 25 Revolution
Following the January 25, 2011 Revolution, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) exercised transitional authority via constitutional declarations, decrees, and resolutions. A comprehensive review of Egypt's constitutional and legal framework governing political life has been initiated. It addresses the distortions and imbalances that dominated the previous phase, meets Egyptians' aspirations, conforms to the revolution's objectives, perpetuates democratic life, and establishes the rule of law and institutions.
In the context of efforts to operationalize the partisan system in Egypt, and to eliminate the restrictions that have impeded this end for decades, on March 28, 2011, the SCAF issued a decree-law No. 12 of 2011, amending certain provisions of the Political Parties Act No. 40 of 1977. The most important amendments and provisions contained in the decree regarding the conditions for the establishment and continuation of the parties were as follows:
- The establishment of an exclusive judicial committee to examine notifications of the foundation of political parties shall be in accordance with the provisions of this law. It should be chaired by the First Vice-President of the Court of Cassation, the highest civil court in the country, and comprised of two Vice-Presidents of the Council of State, two Vice-Presidents of the Court of Cassation, and two Presidents of the Court of Appeal.
- The establishment of the party shall be merely by notification. That notification shall be submitted to the Committee, which must respond. The party shall exercise its political activity from the day after day 30 of notifying the Committee of Parties without objection.
- The notification of the establishment of the party shall be signed by 5000 founding members from at least ten governorates, with at least 300 members from each governorate.
- No party shall be founded on a religious, class or sectarian basis. Its principles, objectives, programs, policies, or methods of practicing activities shall be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Constitution or requirements for protecting Egypt's national security, or preserving national unity, social peace and democratic order.
- The party's means shall not include the establishment of any kind of military formations. There should be a transparency of the party's principles, organizations and funding sources.
- Many of the broad requirements and phrases in Act No. 40 of 1977 shall be removed, such as the requirement that the party's program be an addition to existing parties and that religious feelings shall not be exploited.
- Material support provided to parties by the state should be revoked. The terms of office naturalized persons should be reduced to five years, rather than ten.
- Monitoring parties' compliance with legal requirements and obligations, as well as accountability in the event of breaches of these obligations, are done through penal laws. If it is proven through investigations conducted by judicial investigators that the party is engaging in any activity contrary to any of the conditions stipulated in the law, the Parties Committee may dissolve the party and liquidate its funds.
- This phase witnessed the issuance of the ruling by the State Council's Department of Party Affairs on February 19, 2011, approving the establishment of the New Al-Wasat Party and annulling the decision of the former Political Parties Affairs Committee to establish the party. The party therefore had legal personality and the right to exercise its political activity. The period also witnessed the foundation of the “Freedom and Justice” and “El-Nour” Parties.
Sixth: Post-June 30, 2013 Revolution
Egypt's rule by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has created uncertainty about the future of the country's parties and political life. Party forces have begun to recognize the danger of having this MB group in charge. Despite their differing ideologies, all have joined forces to end the MB's rule, as partisan unity has had a significant impact on achieving the goal of removing the terrorist group's rule from power.
Salient Role of Political Parties on June 30:
They contributed to expose the Terrorist MB's deception and lying, as well as their malicious intentions towards Egyptians. They were also the revolution's spearhead in encouraging Egyptians to participate and demonstrating how the MB had broken all promises to Egyptians. It only cared about its own interests, and it revealed that it intended to rule forever, but Allah saved Egypt.
Before the June 30 Revolution, all parties gathered with their various ideologies and orientations to uphold the interests of the homeland which the MB consider as a handful of dust. The June 30 Revolution united all forces and political parties despite their various ideologies, as danger threatens Egypt, either from inside or outside, solidarity among political forces prevails. During the MB period, all political forces of various orientations came together and fused into a single front, namely the National Salvation Front (NSF). Many parties appeared on the arena; Hezb Al-Masrieen Al-Ahrar (Free Egyptians party), the Wafd, El-Dostour (The Constitution Party), Hezb El-Motamar (The Conference party), and Hezb Al-Masri El-Democrati (the Egyptian Social Democratic) party, as well as many others of various ideologies and ideas, united as they foresaw the danger threatening Egypt.
In 2012, Egypt witnessed the foundation of parties such as Al-Kenana (The Quiver) party, El-Dostour, and Misr El-Qaweya (Strong Egypt party). Moreover, in 2013, the El-Thawra Mostamerah (Revolution Continues), Homat Misr (Homeland Defenders), and Forsan Misr (Knights of Egypt) parties were formed. The Sadat Democratic Party and Mostakbal Watan (Nation's Future Party) were established in 2014. In 2015, the June 30 Party was founded, and in 2018, 104 political parties were officially registered and approved by the Committee of Parties in the state system.
Seventh: Role of Parties and New Republic 2022
Egypt has a long history of partisan life, which witnessed a surge following the June 30 Revolution. Egyptian parties now have a new opportunity to actively participate in national dialogue convened by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on April 26, 2022, to identify national action priorities during the current phase. This is done in collaboration with all youth mainstream, putting parties to the test and requiring joint coordination among active and influential partisan forces on the ground.
The reality of the Egyptian partisan map changed completely after parties emerged from the womb of the June 30 Revolution such as Mostakbal Watan, Homat El-Watan, Al Shaab Al-Gomhouri (Republican People's) Party, and others. The old parties, on the other hand, are still struggling between development and disappearance. The Wafd party is one of the old parties that is still trying to dust itself off and find a place on the New Republic's party map. While the majority of other parties continue to operate in the same pattern without noticeable change; their political and social performance on the Egyptian scene has weakened. Out of more than 100 parties, only about 20 are under the dome of Parliament, 5 have parliamentary bodies with more than 10 deputies within the House. These parties are Mostakbal Watan, Homat El-Watan, Al Shaab Al-Gomhouri, Wafd and Modern Egypt. Thus, the party map of the new Republic, which will depend primarily on those parties, can be seen.
As the President had directed to convene a national dialogue to determine priorities for action during the current phase, Egyptian parties are now facing an important political challenge to participate actively in Egyptian decision-making outside the traditional framework related to the Parliament. This will be accomplished through the President's establishment of a new forum for national dialogue and debate. Consequently, parties should use this opportunity as the event is substantial, taking into account all regional and international variables as well as internal challenges.
Before proceeding to dialogue sessions at the political, economic, social, cultural, or other levels, political parties should consider several pivots on the list of priorities. While it can be stated that all will agree on several priorities, including the importance of carrying out historical national projects; topped by the "Decent Life" project, in addition to pursuing work in state development and corrective plans in economic fields. Priority is also given to food security projects, cyber security, social protection, and other tools to meet the current challenges imposed by pragmatic reality. Egypt is the world's heart and the most crucial geopolitical cornerstone on the world's map. As a result, work within Egypt should be prioritized in accordance with international variables and internal challenges. Thus, the political parties are passing by challenging period yet the value of the partisan life is still promising, and there are many booming positive results expected from the New Republic parties.