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Amin Iskandar

Egyptian Eelections Watch (Ahram Online and Jadaliyya) , Saturday 19 Nov 2011
Amin Iskandar
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Amin Iskandar is a founding member of the recently licensed Al-Karama ("Dignity") Party and is known for his nationalist and Nasserist tendencies. Born in 1952, Iskandar is a writer and researcher and published a number of writings on Egyptian and Arab politics.

 

Before the Revolution

Iskandar was formerly a member of the Nasserist Party, but his membership was frozen in 1998 after he, along with other members of his generation, fell out with the party’s leaders. Although the party leadership had been willing to allow Iskandar and his fellows back into the party's ranks, they declined and instead established their own political party, Al-Karama.

When they applied for a party license from the state-controlled Political Parties Committee, however, the request was refused outright. The party only managed to obtain official recognition following the January 25 Revolution that unseated longstanding president Hosni Mubarak. Al-Karama Party was officially approved on 29 August 2011.

Iskandar began his political activism as an avowed Nasserist during Egypt's student movement in the 1970s, winning student union elections twice. He was arrested during the 1977 Bread Riots. He was also arrested during Egypt’s parliamentary races in the 1980s and in 1983, when he was accused of belonging to an armed underground Nasserist organization. While in prison, Iskandar was severely tortured.

In 2000, Iskandar played an important role in the Egyptian solidarity movement with the Palestinian Intifada and the wave of popular protests against the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. He is one of the main founders of the Kefaya protest movement. Iskandar became known for his vocal criticism of the Mubarak regime, vociferously censuring the notion of “presidential inheritance,” which is shorthand for the former regime’s presumed plans to pass on the presidency to Mubarak’s son, Gamal.

 

The Revolution and Beyond

Iskandar was arrested on 25 January 2011 – the day the revolution erupted – while demonstrating in the Cairo district of Shubra, where he lives. After being released two days later, he became an active participant in the eighteen-day uprising that eventually culminated in Mubarak’s ouster. He currently serves as secretary-general of Al-Karama Party.

In the run-up to Egypt's first post-Mubarak parliamentary polls, Al-Karama joined the Democratic Alliance’s electoral coalition through which it will contest the upcoming elections. Spearheaded by the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Democratic Alliance had also briefly included the liberal Al-Wafd Party, which eventually withdrew from the coalition.

The nascent Al-Karama Party, along with a handful of other parties, came under criticism in October after it agreed to sign an eight-point proposal tabled by Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The proposal included a promise to amend Article 5 of the elections law to allow political parties to field candidates for the one-third of the seats in parliament previously reserved for independent nominees.

Other post-revolution political forces slammed the agreement, however, for its inclusion of an article on the longstanding emergency law. The article effectively condoned the law’s application without providing an exact date for its expiration. The agreement was also criticized for including an article stating the signatories’ support for the SCAF and its role in managing Egypt’s transitional period.

Despite these criticisms, Iskandar defended his party's decision to sign the SCAF prepared document, arguing that the agreement had served to realize several demands that the opposition advanced, including the amendment of Article 5.

A Coptic Christian, Amin Iskandar has always championed the rights of Egypt’s Coptic minority. After the violent 9 October Maspero clashes, when military personnel attacked Coptic demonstrators leaving at least twenty-six dead, Iskandar described the incident as “the most dangerous precedent ever witnessed by Egypt.”

Iskandar is currently planning to run in upcoming parliamentary polls as a member of Al-Karama Party.The 2011/2012 parliamentary elections will be Iskandar’s first time to run in national elections.

 

Fact Box

Born: 1952

Political Orientation: Nasserist/Nationalist

Occupation: Researcher, writer

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