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Egypt's budding democracy

On his first political foray beyond cosmopolitan Cairo, Shady Ghazali Harb, a British-educated surgeon, hoped to find support for his effort to build a political party. Leila Fadel reports.

world Updated: Jun 21, 2011 01:43 IST

On his first political foray beyond cosmopolitan Cairo, Shady Ghazali Harb, a British-educated surgeon, hoped to find support for his effort to build a political party.

What he found instead, here in the Nile Delta, was uncertainty about the new crop of politicians emerging from Egypt’s revolution.

Harb was among the thousands of young activists who raised their voices in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as part of the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Now the surgeon is attempting what he sees as the logical next step: to run for parliament under the banner of his newly founded Free Awareness Party.

But the party has only about 50 members. Harb has gathered only 1,000 of the 5,000 signatures required on a petition to make his group official. And he faces competition from dozens of other post-revolutionary political parties among whom the differences are so slight that even the candidates sometimes seem confused.

Egyptians are unsure who to vote for, who is running and what all these groups stand for.

The result has been a kind of paralysis. While Mubarak’s National Democratic Party is no longer on the scene, only a few alternatives have gained official status, and two of them — the Muslim Brotherhood and a moderate Islamist party called al-Wasat — have been around for years.

As for the new political groups, only three secular parties have submitted papers and are awaiting licenses. But time is not on their side.

Egypt’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for September, although some activists and officials, including interim prime minister Essam Sharaf, have called for the vote to be postponed.

The military rules the country now, and Harb worries that the ideals of the revolution — social justice, human rights and freedom of expression — could be beaten down if the wrong people assume power over the new Egypt.

(For additional content from The Washington Post, visit www.washingtonpost.com)