Parties founded on a religious, gender, class or sectarian base are prohibited in Egypt. Yet, founder of the Nour Party, Yasser Metwalli, insists that the linkage to the ultraconservative religious Salafist movement does not make it a religious party;
“The party is not religious, but it has a religious frame of reference,” Metwalli emphasizes.
With the approval, three political parties with reference to Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, the Wasat Party and now the Nour Party, have entered Egyptian party politics.
New party law has opened the floodgates to new parties
Under Mubarak, parties needed the approval of the Shura Council’s Political Parties Affairs Committee, chaired by the head of the upper house of parliament, who was also a leading figure in Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party. This procedure prevented political party activity, most often by delaying the recognition of a party.
The March amendments to the political party law have made it much easier to form new political parties. Instead of seeking explicit approval, a new party merely needs to notify PAC by presenting 5000 signatures from 10 governorates, with at least 300 members from each governorate and publish the names of the founding members in two national newspapers.
If PAC does not explicitly objects, the party is free to conduct political activities 31 days after the submission of an application.
The newly amended political party law has opened the floodgates to new parties, and Egypt is currently home to more than 20 registered parties.
The Nour Party is the first with a clear reference to ultraconservative Salafi school of Islam to obtain a licence to conduct political activity. The party may, however, shortly be joined by the Virtue Party, which according to Egypt news portal Al Masry Al Youm is expected to finish drafting its party program within the next week.