Egypt Elections: al-Wasat (Center Party)
November 16, 2011
Al-Wasat, as its name indicates, is a moderate Islamist party, originally a spin-off from the Muslim Brotherhood that was finally allowed to register in 2011 after fifteen years of unsuccessful efforts. The party is in talks to join the Third Way alliance when it is announced.
Al-Wasat was founded in 1996 when several young but well-respected members of the Muslim Brotherhood broke away from the organization to form a political party. Abu al-‘Ila Madi took charge of the newly formed party and was assisted by fellow Brotherhood defectors Salah ‘Abd al-Karim and Essam Sultan. The party’s religious ideology is drawn from the Wasatiyya (Centrist) school of thought, a liberal interpretive tradition in Islamic thinking that is firmly anchored in Islamic law but seeks to interpret its principles in a manner consistent with the values of a liberal democratic system.
The party immediately ran into trouble with both the government and the Muslim Brotherhood. The founders were accused by the Mubarak regime of setting up a front for the banned Muslim Brotherhood, while the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood promptly expelled all members who joined the new organization. Al-Wasat applied for legal party status in 1996, 1998, 2004, and 2009, but the application was denied for a variety of reasons until the 2011 uprising. Despite its lack of legal status during that period, al-Wasat sought to cooperate with other parties and organizations in efforts to bring about political reform.
- Guaranteeing equal citizenship rights to all Egyptians, regardless of religion, sex, race, status, or wealth, all emergency laws and special courts, and limiting the scope of such laws to actual catastrophes
- Imposing term limits on the presidency and reducing the powers of the executive branch
- Supporting free elections and allowing a peaceful transfer of power
- Ensuring the right to form political parties, associations, and all civil society institutions
- Promoting transparency and accountability in government
- Alleviating hardship for the poor and middle classes
- Controlling inflation
- Achieving higher, balanced growth rates in all sectors of the economy to satisfy the basic needs of the population
- Supporting investment in the private sector
- Encouraging communities to fight poverty through local development projects and zakat (alms) institutions
- Reaffirming the social and moral characteristics of Arab-Islamic civilization
- Introducing comprehensive educational reforms and combating illiteracy
- Providing universal health insurance to all Egyptians and improving the quality of public hospitals
Foreign Policy Issues:
- Prioritizing relationships with Sudan and Nile Basin countries
- Supporting efforts to resolve the Palestinian question
- Encouraging cooperation between Arab countries in military, political, economic, and cultural affairs
Major Party Figures:
Abu al-‘Ila Madi: Founder and President
Essam Sultan: Leading party member
Salah ‘Abd al-Karim: Leading Party member and member of the party’s political bureau
From Guide to Egypt’s Transition, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: http://egyptelections.carnegieendowment.org/2010/09/16/center-al-wasat-party
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