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Egypt’s Liberals: Still Feckless After All These Years

It’s been more than a year since the Arab Spring, and Egyptian liberals are looking as feckless and disunited as ever. With parliamentary elections approaching, several leaders have called for more cohesion among Egypt’s bitterly divided liberal parties. The hope is that if this time they buck all historical precedent and work together as a block, they can attract more votes and limit the power of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Alas, things aren’t going so well. Most liberal party leaders are calling on their counterparts to unify under their own platforms. The Wall Street Journal explains why:

Yet even the latest attempts at unity have fallen victim to something that has divided Egypt’s non-Islamist opposition for generations: competition among leaders to capture the title of Egypt’s great liberal uniter.

“The problem is ego,” said Shukri Fouad, a leader in the secularist Constitution Party whose stated goal is to offer a big tent to house opposition to the Brotherhood.

“Everyone thinks that he is popular enough or that his party has the chance to have more seats in the Parliament than what he was given within this coalition,” said Mr. Fouad, who hasn’t yet registered his party for the election.

It’s clear that a good portion of Egypt doesn’t want secular leadership. Thus liberals desperately need to unite under one banner to form a bloc big enough to be heard. They will also have to find a delicate balance—a way to argue for religious toleration and promotion of personal freedoms, without coming across as anti-Islamic.

Let us wish them well. Egypt needs a diverse parliament in order to avoid the creation of yet another monolithic political machine representing a single point of view. A united liberal front would help avoid this. Unfortunately, keeping with tradition, Egyptian liberals once again seem to be letting their egos get in the way.

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