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Lina Attalah: Many Egyptians are skeptical that upcoming Parliamentary elections will lead the country through democratic change, and vow to continue striking to meet demands

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. In Egypt, the question of the day is whether or not the military regime will hand over power to civilians. And in the coming election, one of the major issues facing the hundreds of thousands and even millions of people that were in the squares across cities across Egypt is whether or not they’re going to have some kind of political forum, political party that represents them. Now joining us from Cairo to discuss the current state of politics in Egypt is Lina Attalah. She’s the managing editor of the English edition of Al-Masry Al-Youm. And as I said, she joins us from Cairo. Thanks for joining us again, Lina.


JAY: So is there some kind of political formation emerging that represents not the elite parties, not the Muslim Brotherhood, but all these people that have come in to form this new mass movement in Egypt?

ATTALAH: There have been attacks ever since the revolution started to coalesce and to make–to organize revolutionary fronts and revolutionary coalitions, but it’s far from being a homogenous group of people. A lot of those who were in Tahrir Square during the revolution have now been moving into the elite political parties. In fact, fewer others are congregating and forming a coalition on their own, and in fact are running in the upcoming parliamentary elections as a separate group of people. But it’s a very small group of people at this point. But to some it’s–we’re far from having one big, homogenous group of people representing the revolution, as such, beyond the many different parties that have been formed and that are forming since 11 February.

JAY: When we see people interviewed in the streets of Cairo in some of these protests, they’re very concerned [that] not only will the military maintain much of its power in the coming years, but even the elected parliament will wind up being mostly elite parties and Muslim Brotherhood. Is–what–I guess there’s two questions. Is there some way or is there going to be a united front party of some kind formed? And where is the workers movement and trade unions in this? ‘Cause if the workers movement have been the spine of this, then you would think this kind of politics is going to have to come out of the unions.

ATTALAH: On one hand, in terms of the upcoming [incompr.] the main contest really is amidst political parties in a more traditional way, even political parties that have formed after the revolution, after the uprising on 11 February. They made a very traditional [incompr.] approach to a political process. And the main divergence right now in terms of the–in terms of the upcoming parliament is not necessarily how best a group can represent the revolution’s demands, which are mainly surrounding questions of dignity and social justice, but it’s more around a secular-Islamic divide. So we have two big blocs right now contesting with each other over the upcoming parliamentary elections. One is the coalition–the democratic coalition, which is formed mostly of Islamic parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. And on the other hand, we have a secular bloc who are doing their best in order to contest the wide base of popular support that the Islamists have in many places in Egypt. That leaves the labor movement quite ousted from this picture. But that’s also part of the labor movement’s current interests and current engagement with what’s happening. The labor movement is currently still very busy with reforming its own institutions, shaping up a new generation of syndicates and unions that weren’t operating freely at the time of Mubarak. And this is [incompr.] right now. They are not implicating themselves in the parliamentary elections battle, which is believed to be not a very significant battle at this point. It’s not going to be a parliament that will lead us to democratic change. Many people actually have very good faith in the upcoming elections and feel that change will come from other ways, particularly through the strikes and labor movement that has been reaching a peak recently.

JAY: I suppose it’s in the military regime’s interest to have a split over Islam versus secular and not over class questions. And I guess then the military gets to play referee between the two sides if it’s based on Islam and secular kinds of issues.

ATTALAH: It’s very true. In fact, the legitimacy of the outgoing regime of Mubarak was not actually based on this claim to protect people from imminent Islamism or fanaticism of radical groups–given, though, this was an illusion; they weren’t protecting us from anything. We do believe that there was some photographing from the military in this very strong divide between seculars and Islamists. But we are also counting on the political wit of the current players to leave aside this constructed divide and focus on more revolutionary demands pertaining to social justice.

JAY: Right. Thanks very much for joining us, Lina.

ATTALAH: You’re welcome.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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Lina Attalah is the founder of Mada Masr. She is the former Managing Editor at Egypt Independent (formerly Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition). Lina studied journalism at the American University in Cairo. Before joining Egypt Independent, she wrote for Reuters, Cairo Times, the Daily Star, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others. In 2005, she worked as radio producer and campaign coordinator with the BBC World Service Trust in Darfur, Sudan. She also worked as project manager for a number of research-based projects with multimedia outputs around the themes of space, mobility, and intellectual history. Lina is particularly drawn to border areas, where human geography issues of conflict and desire are rampant.