Abul-Ezz El-Hariri

Yasmine Wali, Monday 2 Apr 2012

Aboul Ezz El-Hariri (Photo: Reuters)
Aboul Ezz El-Hariri (Photo: Reuters)

A well-known member of parliament, socialist and labour activist over the course of the last 45 years, Abul-Ezz El-Hariri has a long record of fighting for social justice.

Born in 1944 in the Daqahliya Governorate in the Nile Delta, El-Hariri graduated from a technical industrial high school in 1962 and began work at the state-owned National Textile Company in Alexandria.

During the 1970s he returned to education and earned degrees in history and law. He then served in the army and currently owns a stationary shop in the Moharam Bek district of Alexandria. He is married with three children.

Before the revolution

El-Hariri joined the state-controlled Arab Socialist Union and the Youth Organisation in 1966, under the Nasser regime that had banned all independent political parties in the 1950s.

After Nasser's death, El-Hariri joined the Tagammu Party in 1976, along with Nasserist leader, Khaled Mohieeddin to form the left-wing political party of president Anwar Sadat’s semi-pluralist system.

The same year, he became Egypt's youngest MP when he won a seat in the industrial constituency of Karmouz in Alexandria on a Tagammu ticket. Also in 1976, El-Hariri rejected an offer to join the Arab Socialist Union (the predecessor of the National Democratic Party) and become the labour minister. In an article he wrote at the time, he asserted that even if he had been offered the position of president in that regime, he would have refused it.

His parliamentary immunity was lifted in 1977 due to his involvement in labour strikes. In addition, the textiles company for which he worked transferred him from Alexandria to a remote Red Sea phosphate mine as punishment for his political activity. To protest his treatment he worked as a shoe shiner for 10 days in front of the company offices.

According to El-Hariri, there were six attempts on his life due to his opposition to president Sadat and prime minister Mamdouh Salem. He was arrested five times during the Sadat era due to his labour activism and his opposition to the 1978 Camp David Accords. One of these arrests was in 1981, along with 1500 politicians, intellectuals and activists in what was a major crackdown on opposition from across the political spectrum.

On a number of occasions El-Hariri called for cutting off diplomatic relations with Israel and for amending the Camp David Treaty, which he says puts Egypt in a shameful position of submission and surrender.

El-Hariri was elected, again representing Tagammu, in 1984 and 2000. When he returned to parliament after nearly a decade's absence in 2000, he was among the first MPs to raise questions about the wealth and  monopolistic practices of the National Democratic Party business tycoon Ahmed Ezz, who is currently in jail awaiting trial for corruption.

He was an early member of the pro-democracy Kefaya (Enough) movement, which emerged in 2004. The movement played a significant role in building opposition to the unpopular regime of Mubarak, especially his attempts to groom his son, Gamal, to succeed him as president.

In 2010, El-Hariri was one of the co-founders of the National Assembly for Change (NAC), which sought constitutional reform and social justice. Other prominent NAC members included former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei, writer and activist Alaa El-Aswani and human rights activist George Ishaq. El-Hariri served as NAC's coordinator in Alexandria.

After the revolution

El-Hariri resigned as deputy chairman of the Tagammu Party and split from the party in March 2011, accusing the party of diverting from its primary goals of building opposition to the regime, and argued there was no hope for internal reform. He accused party head Rifaat El-Said of hypocrisy and being too close to the ousted regime.

After the toppling of former president Mubarak, El-Hariri was one of 57 founding members of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), the first leftist party to be legally recognised after Egypt's revolution in March 2011. The SPAP’s main objective is to serve as a unifying platform for the Egyptian left.

He stood for the SPAP as part of the Revolution Continues Alliance of liberals, moderate Islamists and socialists, and was elected member of parliament for West Alexandria. The alliance only has five MPs but its supporters see it as the "revolution's voice" in parliament.

El-Hariri has expressed hope that the left will prevail in Egypt because socialist ideas and philosophy have made a serious comeback on a global level, he says. “The world is inevitably leaning towards the left, as the left strives to defend the rights of the majority.”

He has repeatedly condemned Egypt's ruling military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, for failing to meet the demands of the revolution.

El-Hariri has also said that fraud took place during the parliamentary elections in late 2011 and suggested that fraud is likely during the presidential election, but he, nevertheless, considers it important to stand in both.

The SPAP nominated El-Hariri on 7 March, 2012 as the party's candidate in the presidential elections, and he announced his candidacy that evening on Al-Arabiya satellite TV. However, El-Hariri has also stated that he would not mind bowing out of the presidential race in favour of another like-minded leftist candidate, as long as the candidate in question enjoyed the backing of Egypt’s diverse political forces.

Winning cards

* Despite spending many years in parliaments mired in corruption and nepotism, El-Hariri is viewed as clean and could appeal to voters who want to root-out Mubarak-era excesses and an end to corruption.

* His long history in fighting for workers' rights, his support for the January 25 Revolution, and his willingness to risk jail for his beliefs, allows him to appeal to sections of the poor and revolutionaries who fear both an Islamist or a Mubarak-era president.

Odds against

* Some critics believe that El-Hariri's electoral prospects may suffer due to the presence of other leftist presidential candidates, which include Bothaina Kamel, Khaled Ali and Hamdeen Sabbahi.

* His lack of experience in foreign affairs, as well as his principled opposition to the state of Israel and the United States, is seen as a drawback.A well-known member of parliament, socialist and labour activist over the course of the last 45 years, Abul-Ezz El-Hariri has a long record of fighting for social justice.


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