Middle East

Free the Nile

Liberalism in Egypt

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Lebanon's Daily Star reported last summer that Egyptian parliamentarians have formed a new liberal political party. Hizb al-Ghad, or the Party of Tomorrow, says it stands for "a free-market economy, respect for the rule of law, good governance, women's empowerment, freedom of expression, and an open relationship with the West."

The new party's secretary general is Mona Makram-Ebeid, a Harvard-educated Coptic Christian. Makram-Ebeid told The Daily Star she has high hopes for the future of the party and for liberalism in Egypt. "The prevailing feeling in the country is that change is inevitable," she said. "It is out of frustration that a powerful wave of nostalgia in Egypt has emerged for the liberal period of the country's politics."

That period lasted from 1920 until the catastrophic rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser and his poisonous variety of Pan-Arabism in 1952. The new party is specifically evoking the politics of the time. "The achievements and aspirations of Egypt's liberal period have inspired many Egyptians," Makram-Ebeid said. Hizb al-Ghad "does not believe that change should be gradual, as announced by the government. The party rejects the claim that democracy would only empower Islamist extremists. On the contrary, deferring change is extremely dangerous."

Egypt has been under "emergency" rule for nearly 25 years, and under current law, the country's political parties must be licensed by the state. The new party was turned down three times by officials, and Makram-Ebeid said her organization would push for? reform of the political laws. In late October, however, Egypt officially recognized Hizb al-Ghad. ?