Dr. Rifa’at Al-Sa’id, chairman of the Tagammu Party, speaks about the history of the Egyptian state in manipulating political parties

Sent On: 
Mon, 2014-08-18
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AWR, Cairo, August 18, 2014



Dr. Rifa’at Al-Sa’id, chairman of the Tagammu Party, has been active in Egyptian politics since the days of President Sadat in the 1970s. Sadat changed Nasser’s one party system into a system with three different wings: leftist, centrist and right wing. Sadat turned into the leader of the centrist party. This was the beginning of the revival of a multi-party system, but one that was steered by the President. President Mubarak further developed the line of President Sadat. Both were leaders of strong centrist parties that were ruling the country while allowing a certain space to political parties to the left and right. The Tagammu Party was one of these parties. 


Dr. Rifa’at Al-Sa’id, Source: al- Watan News


The parties that did not belong to the president were not very strong. Dr. Rifa’at al-Sa’id explains that the Egyptian state always has been the dominating factor in Egyptian politics. The reasons are, in his opinion, that the Egyptian electorate is not very politicized and does not trust politicians. Dr. Al-Sa’id blamed this on a weak Egyptian intellectual class.


Egyptians are a very religious people. Muslim Brothers have been using Islam in order to obtain votes but Dr. Al-Sa’id says, “Islam is not an ideology.” Islamism, however, is.


Dr. Rifa’at al-Sa’id, a historian himself, then proceeds to present a historical background of the Muslim Brotherhood whose ideology he has been fighting in the past 35 years. The origin of the ideology stems to the discussion about the khalifa, the succession of the political and religious leadership of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, claiming they know God’s will on earth.


Dr. Rifa’at al-Sa’id explained the history of the Tagammu Party, the bread riots of 1977 that shook Sadat and where motives were comparable to those of the January 25th revolution, a revolution for bread and dignity.


The riots of 1977 were huge. “Something unbelievable. More than the 25th of January. More than the 30th of June. The accumulation of hatred, of hunger, of poverty; everything had accumulated, exploded and I tell you, in all the villages, there were demonstrations. In every village, there were demonstrations and demonstrations using a very strange kind of violence. They were not destroying everything. They were choosing.” Hotels (representing the rich), and governors (representing the much hated government).


Politics during Mubarak was a strange game. Political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, were bargaining with each other for seats in Parliament. Agreements were made who would campaign in certain electoral districts and who would not, thus leaving the seats to the other party.


Political parties primarily use media to present their views to the electorate or to frame their opponents. But, electoral influence is not similar to political influence Dr. al-Sa’id explains.


This interview gives a good insight in Egyptian politics with the Egyptian state being a party that has, thus far, a history of manipulating political parties and with this has given little space to political parties to develop.


For the full text of the interview please click here.




Cornelis Hulsman

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report