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The newly formed Adl Party, launched on 6 May, has its sights set on replacing the Muslim Brotherhood as the key political force in Egyptian politics in the medium term.
However, while the new party has gathered the 5000 members required for its official registration as a political party, is has yet to establish a clear platform, and registration will have to wait until that task is completed. In the mean time, observers can only speculate on the party's likely platform and its chances of dominating the political scene.
“The Adl Party will be the alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood,” says Mostafa al-Naggar, a leading member of the party and the former manager of the National Association for Change, which was led by presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei before former President Hosni Mubarak resigned.
Naggar, a former Brotherhood member, says it is unrealistic for a new party like Adl (meaning justice) to compete head to head with the 83-year-old Muslim Brotherhood, widely considered the best organized political movement in Egypt.
However, he says that in a matter of a few years, his party will have a sufficiently strong popular base to allow it to overpower the Islamist group.
The Adl Party already has eight branches around Egypt’s governorates and has announced that it will contest about 13 percent of seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The Brotherhood, meanwhile, says it will contest 50 percent of seats.
The Brotherhood, founded in 1928 as an Islamic preaching group, was continuously repressed by Egypt’s past three regimes and was banned in the last decade of Mubarak’s rule. However, the oppression didn't prevent it becoming the strongest opposition force during the time of the National Democratic Party (NDP), and it appears to have moved into pole position since the dissolution of the NDP earlier this year.
The Brotherhood recently created its own political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, which claims to be a civil party with "an Islamic frame of reference". It will compete among the dozen other socialist, Islamist and liberal political parties created after Mubarak stepped down in February.
Adl, on the other hand, sets a new trend in the post-revolution political scene by being a centrist party that rejects ideological categorization in an attempt to appeal to the Egyptian mainstream. Party members told Al-Masry Al-Youm that they do not yet have a detailed party platform but will release one in the coming weeks.
Naggar says the party is "setting a new ideology beyond ideologies."
"We found that the Egyptian population doesn't care about ideologies and they don't categorize themselves as adopting a certain political ideology," Naggar says. "On the contrary, they reject and sometimes fear these ideologies."
Ahmed Shokry, another founding member and the nephew of ElBaradei, says Adl is at the center between the liberal and religious forces of the Egyptian political scene.
“We support a civil state with respect to the important role religion plays in the Egyptian society but completely reject the flagrant religious interference in politics,” Shokry says.
Shokry adds that Adl accepts and respects Article 2 of the constitution, which states that the Islamic sharia is the principal source of legislation. Many liberal parties have also said that they accept Article 2.
Adl previously announced it won’t field a candidate in the coming presidential election, scheduled for December, despite the direct relationship between some of its founders and ElBaradei.
They will decide on which candidate to support according to the will of the majority of the party’s members, party leaders say.
As for minority rights, party members say they believe in equality between all citizens, no matter what their religion, gender or social class, while keeping in mind the cultural limitations of Egypt.
“We uphold freedom of expression, but we won’t allow a gay protest or a nudity rally, for example, as we have to respect the society’s religious and moral traditions,” says Shokry.
On the other hand, Naggar said the party supports and encourages women to enter the presidential race, pointing out that more than half of the party’s members are women.
In addition, Adl members say they believe in a free market economy but not at the expense of the poor and marginalized. They say they will adopt policies that support investments and a free market while at the same time setting strategies that protect the poor.
It launched a campaign that features a series of ads that call for social justice as poor people tell stories shoddy education, housing, healthcare and religious discrimination.
"The government has to provide for the basic needs for its citizens, including healthcare, shelter and education, in cooperation with civil society,” said Shokry.
Liberal parties in Egypt are often accused of reaching out only to the upper classes and not representing the majority of the population. Forty percent of Egyptians live below the poverty line.
"The message is that we are not a Cairo-centered party that appeals only to the upper-middle and upper classes, but we want to reach out to workers, the poor, the marginalized and the deprived,” Naggar says.
"We believe in the decentralization of decision making among governorates, as there should be a genuine provincial governance that adopts its own decisions and policies,” said Shokry.
One reason the new party has gotten off to such a relatively solid start is the powerful financial support that includes a list of businessmen, the most prominent of which is Hisham al-Khazindar, the managing director and co-founder of Citadel Capital, the leading private equity firm in the Middle East and Africa.
The list of sponsors can be found on the party’s website, which says the sponsors will not be accepted as members in order to preserve the party’s independence. The website does not reveal the specific amounts of contributions made.
“I feel they have integrity and transparency in managing the party,” says Iman Gamea, 28, who recently joined the party.
Although Adl seems to be gaining attention from many people, it has not been able to escape criticism.
“They haven’t provided a clear political program with detailed policies that I can judge them on,” says Perihan Abu Zaid, a political activist. “It seems to be a promising party with good values and goals, but they haven’t given me anything beyond slogans.”
Adl is only one of a dozen new parties that have emerged after the fall of Mubarak, and it will all have to meet the high expectations of potential voters and demonstrate sympathy with the demands of freedom, democracy and social justice that have accompanied the revolution.
Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University, says it will take time for parties to expound their ideologies clearly.
“Adl, like many other parties, can talk about their exceptional ideologies, but nothing will be clear except by experience and practice – especially during elections,” Nafaa says.