Al Tagammu Party

Hazem Zohni, Wednesday 5 May 2010

The call to rally together leftists of all leanings was the starting point for the National Progressive Unionist Party, better known as Al-Tagammu.


The call to rally together leftists of all leanings was the starting point for the National Progressive Unionist Party, better known as Al-Tagammu.

Established in 1976 by the so-called Red Major, Khaled Mohieddin, Al-Tagammu first rose as a vocal opponent to President Sadat’s regime. The opposition stances articulated in the party’s mouthpiece, Al-Ahali, subjected the paper to repeated government confiscations, including a temporary shut down.

Al-Tagammu was initially branded by the national press as a communist party, but what it actually stood for appeared vague and unclear from the onset. The movement was an amalgam of Marxists, Nasserists and Arab nationalists, all of whom contended to gain control and shape its policies. The conflicting efforts to shape the party led to internal divisions and to the party’s gradual weakening, causing many members to leave its ranks.

However, the party changed its tone during the Mubarak Presidency, adopting a milder attitude towards the regime. Consequently, critics began accusing it of securing an agreement with the government in return for its continued opposition to Islamist groups.

The slackening of its hostility towards the regime was accompanied by a steep decline in the circulation of the party’s paper, Al-Ahali. But the party was to experience more sever blows: the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, combined with the establishment of the Arab Democratic Nasserist party in 1992, fostered widespread belief that Al-Tagammu was nearing the end of its existence.

Yet Al-Tagammu survived, clinching five seats in the 1995 parliamentary elections, six in 2000, and two in 2005. Today the party has one seat in the Shura Council – Egypt’s upper house of parliament. Its ability to endure, though in a weakened state, stems from the party’s capability to re-market its platform, shifting its focus from socialism to democracy and the end of oppression.

Consequently, by the mid-90s its long-worn slogan of “Freedom, socialism and unity” was quietly replaced by the more inclusive and mainstream motto: "Change in response to the people's will – against oppression, corruption and terrorism; for justice, progress and democracy."

However, despite its 30-year presence in the political arena, some of the party’s critics point to Al-Tagammu’s persistent inability to establish a solid relationship with the masses. Critics have also accused the party’s current leader, Rifaat El Saeed, of being too loyal to the regime. El Saeed in turn has insisted that establishing a cooperative relationship with the ruling part is necessary for achieving the party’s long-term goals.

This ‘cooperative’ approach has led the party to side with the regime in its conflict with former UN nuclear chief Mohamed El Baradei’s National Association for Change and the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Tagammu has been steadfast in its rejection of Baradei’s appeal to boycott parliamentary elections, and reports indicate that the party plans to field approximately 80 candidates, competing for seats in the upcoming lower house elections.

On the other hand, as of March 2010 the party’s leadership has agreed to become a member of the Coalition of Egyptian Opposition Parties. It has joined the Democratic Front, the New Wafd, the Nasserist party and other supporters of constitutional reforms, in the calls for the amendment of articles 76, 77 and 88 (which make it very difficult for candidates outside the ruling party to nominate themselves for presidency)

Al-Tagammu Party Platform

  • The abolishment of the state of emergency.
  • The independence of the judiciary branch.
  • Amending the constitution in ways that guarantee judicial supervision of elections.
  • Ensuring the protection of the freedom of the press and ending all government regulations of print and broadcast media.
  • Enhancing civil liberties, including the right to stage peaceful demonstrations and set up political parties.

Al-Tagammu also calls for allowing trade unions and NGOs to operate in Egypt without government intervention or oversight, and it opposes the normalization of ties with Israel while supporting efforts to strengthen the Arab League.

Key Players

Khaled Mohieddin
Khaled Moheiddin was a leading member of the Free Officers Movement that overthrew the monarchy in July 1952. After the downfall of King Farouk, Moheiddin became one of the 12-member Revolution Command Council that was established in order to manage state affairs and steer the transition to a new republican regime.

However, his membership in this collective leadership was short-lived. Having backed a more democratic approach to rule, he resigned in 1954 on account of the Council taking on a more authoritarian system of government. As his difference in opinion strained his relationship with Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Moheiddin went into self-imposed exile in Europe.

Shortly after his exile, in 1955, Moheiddin was invited back to Egypt to launch a leftist evening newspaper, Al-Messa – a position he lost only three years later. Finally, in 1976, he established Al-Tagammu Party. In the parliamentary elections of 1990 and 1995, he represented the constituency of his native village, Kafr Shukr. He remained the party’s leader until 2004.

Rifaat El Saeed
Rifaat El Saeed, 78, is the chairman of Al-Tagammu. While he holds two doctorate degrees in modern history, his life has largely been dominated by politics rather than academia. In fact, his political activity led to his imprisonment on several occasions, during Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s attack on communists in the 1960s.

Since rising in the ranks of Al-Tagammu, El Saeed has become a primary target of critics, who accuse him of being responsible for the party’s conciliatory approach towards the regime. Such critics have based these accusations in part on El Saeed’s appointed membership in the Shura Council, as well as his receiving personal protection from state security forces.

El-Saeed has also been noted for his defense of the rights of Copts, devoting a considerable number of his articles in the party's Al-Ahali newspaper to attacks on anti-Coptic discriminations.

El Saeed has consistently taken a strong public stance against the Muslim Brotherhood, refusing to cooperate with the group to achieve opposition goals. He has been particularly criticized following the party’s poor performance in the 2005 parliamentary elections, and he has been accused by some party members of being dictatorial and manipulative.

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