First newly emerged liberal party to submit official papers

The Free Egyptians Party, co-founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, announced on Monday that it would present its papers to the Political Parties’ Affairs Committee on Tuesday, potentially making it the first of the newly emerging liberal groups following the recent Egyptian uprising to gain official party status.

“We are not only celebrating the launching of our party, but the fact that we now have hope again and we have choices in a democratic atmosphere,” said Sawiris.

The party presented its program during the press conference and invited secular parties to cooperate with them in parliamentary elections scheduled for September.

“I believe that liberal parties should cooperate and run for all parliamentary seats because this is not a fight; we are all aiming for a balanced Egypt,” Sawiris said.

The party announced that it would also field candidates in municipality and syndicate elections, and party members said they believe that all of Egypt’s institutions must be reformed.

The party has not, however, offered its backing to any existing presidential candidate, nor put forward a candidate of its own.

After extensive campaigning across Egypt since the party was launched, the Free Egyptian's Party has succeeded in recruiting 14,000 founders and 50,000 members. The party will present 5500 names to the political parties committee Tuesday, thereby exceeding the requested number by 10 percent.

The Free Egyptians hope that these numbers will combat the perception that they are a party for Christians and the elite. Sawiris is a member of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, which accounts for about 10 percent of the population.

Despite being identified as a figurehead of the new party, Sawiris has emphasised that he has no plans to lead the party. He has also sought to correct the popular belief that he is its main beneficiary, saying that among the party’s 27 financiers, the largest donation has not come from him.

Sawiris has, however, been enthusiastic in describing the party's values and platform, such as its economic stance, which he describes as a hybrid between free market economics and socialism.

While the party calls for a free market economy, it also stresses support for poor Egyptians through unemployment support, social and health insurance. It calls for the government to provide vital services such as health, transportation, housing, and proper infrastructure in a way that “respects the humanity and dignity of the Egyptian citizen.”

The party’s social program was presented by its founding member Hany Sarey al-Din as the first priority in the party’s program. The program includes drastic educational reforms and a free and equal education for all Egyptians, regardless of their financial abilities or geographic locations. The party says it has a 20-year plan for ending poverty in Egypt.

Sarey al-Din hosted a conference discussing the rights of people with special needs on Sunday, and says that the party’s attention to this issue gives it an edge over other parties because the issue affects 10 percent of Egyptians.

Regarding the party’s foreign policies, Sarey al-Din asserts that the Palestinian issue is a priority, and that reaching a fair solution that respects international treaties is essential. He has also emphasised the need for strong relations with Egypt’s African neighbours, an issue with serious national security implications.

The party is currently being run by an interim committee of 19 members, who will remain in place until internal elections can be held later in the year.

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