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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Future of a Homeland Party: The unexpected success story of Egypt's elections

The newly formed party came second in the 2015 parliamentary race with 51 seats; but there are many questions about the party's backers, goals and programme

Omar Halawa, Saturday 5 Dec 2015
Badran
Mohamed Badran, the party founder (Photo: Al Ahram)
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On Cairo's 26 July highway, motorists drive past a huge billboard bearing the message "We'll eat fish every day (The Ministry of Fishery Resources...LE5 per kilo)."

Egypt has no fisheries ministry; the billboard that conjures up an image of a country fed on cheap, plentiful fish is instead an advert for the electoral campaign of the Future of a Homeland Party.

Although founded only in 2014, the party has managed to secure an impressive number of seats in Egypt's long-awaited parliamentary elections – which began in October and concluded in December.

In total the party won 43 individual seats and another eight via party-list seats as part of the pro-Sisi “For the Love of Egypt” grouping.

This gives the party the second largest number of seats behind the Free Egyptians Party (65), and means they have beaten prominent names like the older liberal Wafd Party (32), and the Salafist Nour Party (11), which won the second largest number of seats in the 2012 parliament.

Given the party's success, many questions are now being asked about the little-known group: Where does it get its funding? What is its ideology and its programme?

There are also others questions circling about the role of its founder, 24-year-old Mohamed Badran, who some commentators believe has secured El-Sisi's backing for the party.

Badran, a former head of Egypt's National Student Union, was part of a select group who joined El-Sisi on board the state yacht as it made its way along the Suez Canal in August, in a day of official celebrations marking the opening of the New Suez Canal.

"Badran was elected as head of the student union in Banha University in 2010, before the 2011 revolution, and he won two consecutive times after the revolution,” said Mohamed Nagy, a student movement researcher for the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.

“Then he ran for the head of Egypt's National Student Union in April 2013 and won the post against a Muslim Brotherhood opponent.”

“I think he was lucky to win the post as the majority of the civil and the revolutionary student movements were supporting him as a gesture of defiance to the [then-ruling] Brotherhood, and, in addition, he was strongly supported by the chairman of Banha University at the time," Nagy added.

Badran, Nagy argued, was never an "annoying" student leader while at Banha University; he was more involved in organising social activities than in debating politics.

"So, he was an ideal candidate for some state bodies. And following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 he was named as a member of the 50-person commitee which wrote the 2014 constitution.”

“He then joined the Egyptian Social Democratic Party - the party of the prime minister at that time, Hazem El-Beblawi. And I can openly say that since that period Badran has decided to turn his back on student issues and demands and became married to his political ambition." 

However, Ahmed Sami, the Future of a Homeland's media spokesperson, rejected Nagy's arguments about a "close" relationship between his party and the presidency.

"First of all, any person can practice politics and neither Badran nor our party is backed by the state or the presidency," Sami told Ahram Online.

"Badran was among 12 other youth on the yacht with the president, as the then-head of Egypt's National Student Union," Sami added.

"Our party's aim is to train the youth to hold posts and to be well-educated politicians,” he said.

“We started a campaign to support the 2013 roadmap and at the time we were only 500 young people. Today, the party has 200,000 young members nationwide and all of them are being trained in party offices in all Egypt's governorates," he added, a reference to the training the party provides youth members in leadership skills and politics.

But for Mohamed El-Agati, a political expert and head of the Arab Forum of Alternatives, the Future of a Homeland Party is just a reproduction of political experiences from decades past.

"It reminds me of Gamal Mubarak's initiative in the early 2000s, the Future Generation Foundation, and the Nasserite-era initiative, the Vanguard Organisation," El-Agati said.

"Although both initiatives had different perspectives and compositions, ultimately both of them recruited youth to serve the regime's policies. I attended a seminar for the party and one of its representatives said that we don't mind using the Nasserite model as long as we can stay away from its negative points," El-Agati said.

"However, the parliamentary elections showed the party has a parallel strategy [to recruiting youth members]. The majority of the candidates came from the traditional families who used to run on the National Democratic Party's lists, and some former officers from the military or the police," Agaati said.

"They were sure that they would never make it to the parliament without using the old networks, which also have their own interests, so it’s a common interest calculation between both sides, especially as many prominent businessmen are funding this party," El-Agati added.

But Future of a Homeland's Sami sees a potential in the party's internal composition, dynamics and its political agenda.

"Yes, we fielded some faces from the traditional families who used to run the elections in the previous races, and let me assure you that we received the majority of our hundred local party headquarters as donations from those families," he said.

"We had to field those influential figures to make it to the parliament, as long as they are not corrupted and they are reputable and popular; and we also had to field candidates who are above 50 years old, to secure the balance between youth and experience. We don't see this as a contradiction within the internal composition of our party, the majority of which is made up of youth," Sami added.

Sami said that beside the donations and the annual subscriptions paid by members, the party is being funded by prominent businessmen "who believe in the role of youth and democracy" such as Ahmed Abu Hashima, Mansour Amer and Mohamed Farag Amer.

"We are not the only party being funded by businessmen," said Sami. "Let us focus more on our programme and our party's goals rather than concentrating on other things. We are ready with a number of draft bills which focus on education, health, investment, taxes and establishing small enterprises," Sami added.

However, El-Agaati argues that the party might be used by some "influential players" to pass certain laws and policies.

"Don’t think that the support they are gaining from those businessmen and the traditional network [of prominent families] is just about the best interests of the youth. In the end, everyone must pay the bill for what he's received," El-Agati added.      

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