Nate Wright discusses the challenges faced by youth parties in Egypt, fighting for political space in the fast-approaching elections.
Residents of Cairo's Darb al-Ahmar neighborhood have gathered at a streetside café on a late October Friday night to get their first glimpse of a political party founded by revolutionary activists. Men play backgammon and sip from their glasses of tea as members of al-'Adl, one of 35 new parties vying for a role in Egypt's next government, rush to set up a table and microphone at the café entrance. The first round of parliamentary elections, scheduled to commence November 28, is only a month away, but the campaign season has just begun. In the eight months since widespread demonstrations and Egypt's military leadership forced former President Husni Mubarak to flee to Sharm al-Sheikh, the country's political class has been caught up in divisive battles over election laws, party alliances and timetables -- all complicated by the ruling military council's thorough mishandling of the rocky transition. As a result, many parties have turned to electioneering with the sudden intensity of a student doing his homework on the morning ride to school. When it makes its debut at the Nasif café, al-'Adl will be only the fourth party that Darb al-Ahmar residents have seen in their area. The others -- the Muslim Brothers, al-Wafd and al-Ghad -- are all Mubarak-era opposition parties with experience running in parliamentary elections.