Hala Shukrallah
Photo by: 
Lina Attalah

Dostour leader sets up party for new beginning

Newly elected Dostour Party leader Hala Shukrallah said in a presser on Tuesday that her party has not yet decided on a position vis-à-vis the presidential elections, but will not support state representatives.

"We don't have a nominee. The scene is empty now. Our inclination is to support the hopefuls whose candidacy has democratic guarantees. We won't support someone representing a state institution and making use of its resources for his candidacy," she said, in response to a question on whether her party supports the candidacy of military commander and Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. 

"We will assume a position according to democratic mechanisms within the party," she added.  

Shukrallah responded to a question on party members chanting "down with military rule" in previous protests by saying that this was a reflection of a reaction to violations by a military government, referring to the period when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was ruling, before the Muslim Brotherhood took over. 

"Sisi played an important role in siding with the people in their desire to oust the Brotherhood regime. Essentially, we support the army as a protector of the state," she said. 

Commenting on the sudden resignation of the Beblawi cabinet, Shukrallah said that she needs more information on the circumstances surrounding this decision, such as whether the cabined resigned or was fired. On whether they will accept positions in the new cabinet, Shukrallah said, "We are busy building a party." 

Shukrallah said that there are talks of coordinating with other parties, but the shape of this coordination is yet to be determined. At an earlier stage, she said, there were discussions about a merger with the Social Democratic Party, but that these conversations have since ended. Meanwhile, she revealed that while there are ongoing talks with the Strong Egypt Party, led by Muslim Brotherhood defector Abdel Moneim Abouel Fottouh, there is no indication of a merger between the two parties. She added that coordination may mean electoral coalitions, the creation of a front, as well as future mergers. 

The newly elected leader was asked about the sudden departure of her predecessor, reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who is credited with fueling revolutionary sentiments among the youth ahead of the January 25 revolution, and who left the country shortly after holding the position of vice prime minister following the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. "There was a deliberate campaign to tarnish ElBaradei's image, which exceeded the negative effect of his departure. This is not different from calling the January 25 revolution, which thrived on the souls of the youth, an American and Brotherhood conspiracy," she said. 

Shukrallah clarified that her party adopts center left politics, whereby social justice is central, while the private sector is given rights to operate within regulations and within a strong state presence. She added that she is invested in improving the party's outreach on a grassroots level, arguing that people will support a non-religious party if said party consistently communicates with them, and does not just use them for electoral ends.

She also stated that, while fellow parties and other media welcomed her leadership as the first woman to hold a party head post, engaging with the street is what matters in terms of achievement. 

Shukrallah said that she is also invested in strengthening the party institutionally, in order to end the phenomenon of the "one figure parties", shortly before she gave the floor to the party's secretary general to talk about the Dostour Party's bylaws and strategies. 

The liberal Dostour Party was born in April 2012 in the aftermath of the January 25 revolution, in an attempt to organize a large protest movement led by ElBaradei. However, shortly after its founding, the party descended into internal feuds, particularly between youth members and senior leaders. Sit-ins were staged in 2013 in front of party headquarters to object to the leadership, resulting in some restructuring, as well as the organization of internal elections.

Shukrallah and her team are the first elected leaders within the party.