Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What the elections reveal about the far left in Palestine and Egypt

One of the interesting aspects of the recent elections in Palestine was the failure of the left to unite to form a “third force” that could challenge the polarised battle between Fatah and Hamas.

The total vote for the two socialist lists was 7.17%, a total of 71000 votes, and they won 4 seats.

Socialists of the PFLP stood under the banner “list no. 3, the list of the martyr Abu Ali Mustafa!" (Abu Ali Mustafa is general secretary of the PFLP and is imprisoned in Jericho.) This list won 42000 votes, (4.25%).

Another coalition of socialists stood as “List 4 the Alternative” also won 29000 votes (2.92%) and seem to have stood on a more explicitly Marxist programme.

The election was undoubtedly polarised between Fatah and “Change and Reform” (The Hamas list), so getting over 7% is a reasonable vote for the hard left, and is a basis to build upon.

It compares favourably with the Egyptian elections where socialists and secular opposition parties were marginalised.

Bizarrely there was an article in Socialist Worker about Kamal Khalil - a Revolutionary Socialist - who SW claimed was "set to win" his seat in Cairo if it had not been for deliberate election fraud - govt closing the polling stations, etc,

Now this is of course possible, but it doesn't match the account of the elections in Al Ahram.

electoral fraud: :

The first of these articles talks about only a 10% turnout in urban constituencies, and the vote polarised between the (banned) Moslem Brotherhood and the govt party. The secular opposition have been wiped out and even former Free Officer (Nasser's close circle) Khaled Mohieddin has lost his seat. It quotes a leading oppositionist saying that people didn't vote for Khalil because his name was not explicitly Islamic. What is more the other secular politicians are admitting that they were marginalised by a polarisation between the Islamists and the govt.

With regard to electoral interference, the govt party would be more opposed to the Moslem Brotherhood (MB) than to a socialist, however revolutionary, and exactly the same electoral irregularities were practised across the country with the aim of keeping out the MB candidates, but they nevertheless won 100 seats, trebling their standing in parliament.

So the picture in Egypt is interesting, that there is an active secular left, who were able to hegemonise street demonstrations for democracy, but when it came to the actual elections, it was exposed that they stood on a relatively narrow base. Where opposition to the govt was expressed at the polls it overwhelmingly went to the Islamists. The following interesting article in al Ahram discusses the left in Egyptian society:
“There is still hope, Veteran left-wing lawyer, El-Hilali suggests, if leftists find a way to work together, though "not in the form of yet another political party". What is needed, he says, is a broad non-ideological coalition, "including as many factions as possible and able to steer away from the typical ghettoising of Trotskyites, Nasserists and the like".

“Because leftists cannot hope to achieve political change alone, El-Hilali echoed the calls made by less radical leftist factions on the importance of working with Islamists, urging "hysterical and frantic critics" of such a move to "stop". "There are fundamental differences but we are agreed on our opposition to the regime and to imperialism... There is no justification in refraining from engaging in joint work."

“Tamer Wageeh, of the Socialist Studies Centre, pointed to the "ill-defined" masses of activists who have taken to the streets in the last six years, citing Intifada solidarity demonstrations, anti-war protests and the more recent demonstrations demanding change in Egypt. But instead of swelling the ranks of left-wing factions these young and politicised activists are rejecting the left label.

"They don't define themselves as yassar (left) though they subscribe to its principles -- anti-privatisation, anti- imperialism, women's rights, Coptic rights and so on -- because the reputation of the Egyptian left has put them off. The challenge is to integrate these people into the movement."

“It is equally important, he added, for the left-leaning anti- Mubarak group Kifaya to not just maintain its activities but expand them to include socio-economic issues.
“If the left doesn't work on enhancing its appeal, he said, the results are easy to foresee. "There will be a great void and people will simply turn to the right." ”

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