Political parties in Egypt are preparing for the upcoming November parliamentary elections by forming electoral alliances and agreeing on final candidate lists.
Three blocs have emerged so far: the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, the Egyptian Bloc, and the Third Way Coalition.
The parliamentary elections are scheduled for November 28th and will be conducted in three stages with two-week intervals, under full judicial supervision. They are the first elections scheduled after the January 25 revolution that ended the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
According to the constitutional declaration, which was passed by a referendum in March, the new parliament's first task will be to elect a constituent assembly to prepare a new constitution within six months after the parliamentary elections.
On Sunday (September 25th), the government approved amendments to the People's Assembly and the Shura Council election laws. The election for the People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, will be conducted November 28th. The assembly will be composed of 498 members, instead of 504. A total of 166 MPs will be elected through an individual candidacy system while the remaining 332 will be elected through the party list system.
The government also agreed to amend the provisions of the Shura Council Law. In the future, the council, the upper house of parliament, will be composed of 270 members instead of 390. One-third (90) of its members will consist of presidential appointees. Among elected officials, 120 will be elected through the party list system and 60 will be elected through the individual candidate system. Elections for the Shura Council will be held January 29, 2012.
The three electoral blocs had agreed to press the government to amend the People's Assembly and the Shura Council election laws so that the party-list system would be used to fill the majority of the seats and only a small number of seats would be filled through the individual-candidate system.
The Democratic Alliance for Egypt comprises 38 political parties and movements. The liberal al-Wafd party and the Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, are the most prominent members. Several other major parties, such as the Democratic Front and the Progressive Unionist (Tagammu) parties, left the Democratic Alliance and joined the Egyptian Bloc Alliance.
The Democratic Alliance also includes a number of smaller political parties such as the liberal al-Ghad party, the Social Constitutional party, the Building and Development party (the political arm of the Islamic Group), and the Salafist al-Noor party.
Dr. Essam al-Erian, a Freedom and Justice party leader, told Al-Shorfa the concept of the alliance is to seek election of a strong parliament that holds the government, the executive branch, and the judiciary accountable.
"Egypt needs a Parliament that can build a state based on law and justice and help the people adapt to a democracy that meets their demands, which spawned the revolution," al-Erian said.
The greatest indicator of Egyptians' willingness to change according to democratic principles is their desire to vote, al-Erian said. He added that the Democratic Alliance will compete against the other electoral blocs, all of which seek to build a democratic state, he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood announced in April that it would field candidates to contest 50% of the seats in parliament, with the goal of winning 30% of the seats.
The Democratic Alliance's top challenger is the Egyptian Bloc, which includes more than 18 liberal and leftist parties in addition to a number of youth movements that led the revolution. The Egyptian Bloc platform is focused upon establishment of a democratic civil state.
The main parties of the Egyptian Bloc include the Free Egyptians party, Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Front, Progressive Unionist (Tagammu) Party, Popular Socialist Coalition party, Masr al Hurreyya liberal party, Egyptian Socialist Party, Egyptian Communist Party, in addition to the Independent Farmers Union, Independent Labour Union, and the National Association for Change.
Parties with an Islamist orientation or character refused to join the Egyptian Bloc because of its secular anti-Islamist orientation.
Dr. Samer Suleiman, an Egyptian Social Democratic party leader and founder of the Egyptian Bloc, told Al-Shorfa that the bloc refuses to mix religion with politics. It opposes the tide of political Islam while it welcomes individuals within the Islamist movement who understand the distinction between political and religious work.
He added, "With its civilian outlook, the Egyptian Bloc can garner broad support from religious and social groups that do not want the religious groups to dominate the political scene, such as Muslims who reject Salafi extremism, Christians, and Sufis, as well as social groups that would certainly suffer under the control of hard-line religious entities, such as people working in the tourism and art sectors, among others."
Earlier this month, the formation of a new bloc, called The Third Way, was announced, spearheaded by the centrist Justice Party. The party said in the new bloc's founding statement that it was formed to be "the nucleus of the centrist trend in Egypt to blaze a new path for Egyptian citizens away from political polarisation between the various political movements."
The Justice Party was founded after the revolution and was a founding member of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, before announcing its withdrawal in July.
Dr Mustafa al-Najjar, founding deputy of the Justice Party, said, "Since the revolution, the Egyptian people have suffered from of a state of constant polarisation between liberals and Islamists. So the party decided to enter the elections without being allied with any of them in order to represent 'centrist' Egyptians who want the demands of the revolution to be achieved apart from the political polarization wars between the various trends. "
The blocs have yet to decide on the number of seats they would contest, but the Democratic Alliance had said in previous statements that it would field candidates for all the seats in parliament.