Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Liberal International Congress in Cairo

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 31st October, 2009

Democratic Front PartyThe core theme of the 56th Liberal International Congress in Cairo is education and its relationship to democracy, which has enabled participants from around the world to cover a wide range of issues from communications technology to religion. This is the first time that the Congress has  been held in Egypt, which is a tribute to our hosts, the Democratic Front Party (DFP), which was only formally launched two years ago. When I first discussed the possibility of a new, genuinely liberal, modern party in Egypt with Dr Osama Al Ghazali Harb a few years ago, it was far from certain that it would be allowed to exist (new parties need permission from a commission which is effectively run by the ruling party of President Hosni Mubarak, the National Democratic Party or NDP). Moreover, at the time another small liberal party, El Ghad, had been seriously undermined by the fact that its leader and former presidential candidate, Ayman Nour, was in prison. Perhaps partly because of pressure from Washington, however, the Egyptian government has allowed a certain amount of democratic openness, though within definite strict limits. And the harrassment of some opposition groups continues.

Anyway, the DFP was set up and has managed to attract some high profile members and supporters. Despite an attempt by somebody with a hidden agenda wrongfully to smear the Democratic Front as anti-semitic on the eve of the Congress, the party was welcomed into full membership of Liberal International yesterday. El Ghad (already a member) is also represented here. Ayman Nour, who was released from prison earlier this year, put in an appearance yesterday, though he could not say anything, as he is forbidden by the terms of his release from participating in the political process. Of course, many of the concepts of political liberalism (especially social liberalism) are unknown to the mass of the Egyptian population. But as the country develops and the political landscape changes in the post-Mubarak era (not even he is immortal), it will be fascionating to monitor what evolves.

Link (in Arabic): www.democraticfront.org

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