Opposition Strategies in Egypt
Amr Hamzawy, former member of the Egyptian People’s Assembly, discussed the role of Egypt’s opposition in the country’s political transition.
On April 26, the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center hosted a discussion, “Opposition Strategies in Egypt: How They Can Contribute to the Democratization Process,” with Hamzawy. Marina Ottaway, Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, moderated the event.
Hamzawy characterized the opposition parties in Egypt as dynamic, encompassing a diverse spectrum of views that cannot be categorized in a simple Islamist versus non-Islamist dichotomy. Hamzawy then outlined five issues which he deemed most critical for shaping Egypt’s transition towards democracy: the development of democratically-legitimated institutions, the resolution of major socio-economic and fiscal issues, the formulation of an empowered and independent judicial branch of government, the growth of a robust civil society, and the continuation of popular participation and interest in politics.
Starting in October 2012, when President Mohammed Morsi announced a constitutional declaration that substantially broadened his powers, many of the previously disparate leftist and liberal opposition members united under one party, which became known as the National Salvation Front. As a first act of resistance, the National Salvation Front proceeded to demand a timeline for the parliamentary elections, and they announced they would boycott the elections, which became a highly emotive and significant gesture at the time.
Henceforth, Hamzawy argued, the track record of the National Salvation Front has been mixed. Though they have succeeded in providing close scrutiny and limits on the government’s abuse of power, they have failed to offer alternative agendas or policies to help the country move forward.
Elaborating on its successes, Hamzawy lauded the National Salvation Front for its ability to unite previously competing liberal and leftist parties and personalities. The coalition has managed to bring parties together in agreement over a common platform, which clearly articulates their position on the judicial branch of government and their approach toward building democratic political institutions. However, he maintained, they have not been able to agree upon the major socio-economic issues facing the country.
On the other hand, Hamzawy argued that the National Salvation Front has failed to engage in the constituent-building activities and outreach necessary to build its political base. Additionally, they have been unable to move beyond what Hamzawy termed their “rejectionist attitude,” which has prevented them from engaging in constructive dialogue with the government during episodes of political crisis.
In order to ensure a democratic transition in Egypt, Hamzawy concluded that the opposition must formulate a cohesive strategy in engaging the government, and they must articulate an alternative path for Egypt’s political development, clearly elucidating their positions on the major economic, social, constitutional, and judicial crises facing the country.
By Darya Razavi, Middle East Program