Egypt approves new liberal political party

Egyptian authorities agreed yesterday to license a political party led by a prominent defector from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of President Hosni Mubarak.

The party affairs committee of the upper house of parliament, which grants legal recognition to political parties, approved an application from a group of politicians who call themselves the Democratic Front.

One of the leaders is Osama Al-Ghazali Harb, an academic, intellectual and writer who left the ruling party in 2006 because he said it was not committed to political reforms.

Harb was a member of the party’s policies council which had more than 100 members. After resigning, he said the party leadership gave little weight to the council’s opinions.

He remains a presidentially appointed member of the upper house of parliament, known as the Shoura Council. Another prominent member of the new party is Yahya Al Gamal, a minister of social affairs in the 1970s and a well-known leftist who began his political life as an Arab nationalist.

Gamal told the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera that the Democratic Front believed in “democracy, the rule of law, the rotation of power and a civil society”.

“We believe that the silent majority, which is looking for a place, will find its place in this party,” he said.

The Democratic Front is Egypt’s 24th political party and joins a long list of similar parties which advocate political reforms and liberal policies.

The other parties, including the well-established Wafd Party and the Ghad (Tomorrow) Party of imprisoned politician Ayman Nour, failed to attract large support in recent elections.

The elections showed the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful opposition force in the country, with 88 out of the 454 seats in the lower house of parliament. The authorities refuse to recognise the Brotherhood or let the Islamists form a political party.