White House shake-up
Mortada Mansour became the 16th president of Zamalek Club, downing the incumbent in a wild election campaign. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab
was in the club on the day of reckoning
In the fiercest battle in memory over a club presidency, Mortada Mansour edged Kamal Darwish to be placed at the helm of Zamalek Sporting Club for the next four years.
Nearly 20,000 members voted, the largest turnout ever of any club in Egypt. The number dwarfed the 7,000 voters who turned out for the municipal council in the same neighborhood. (In comparison, less than 16,000 members voted late last year in Ahli, the most celebrated of Egyptian clubs).
Darwish, who was president for nine years, conceded defeat to his adversary Mansour, who was the club's vice president, in one of the most controversial presidential elections Zamalek had ever seen. However, on election day on Friday, from 9am to 8pm and as hundreds of police surrounded the club, in marked contrast, the voting was smooth and surprisingly uneventful.
Mansour collected 8,665 votes compared to 8,293 for Darwish, a difference of only 372 votes. A total of 2,200 ballots were filled in incorrectly and were considered null and void.
Celebrating his albeit narrow victory, Mansour, an outspoken MP and former judge, promised to end the acrimony between him and Darwish. He declared that he has no intention of settling old scores with his rival although he did imply that Darwish's defeat was the punishment he deserved.
Immediately after his election, Mansour announced that in his reshuffle he will request the Central Auditing Agency, a powerful watchdog, to investigate alleged violations under the former board. "We will also form a 'council of wise men' to be responsible for the day-to-day running of the soccer team, for example choosing new coaching staff and players in the near future." The council will include Hamada Imam, Zaki Osman, Mahmoud Abu Regeila and Nabil Nouseir.
Long before ballot day, the two candidates had gone to war in a bitter rivalry fought on the airwaves and in the press. They held mass rallies -- simultaneously -- and in the same place, the club's garden. The garden and the fence looking onto the street were flooded with loudspeakers, deafening their supporters and unfortunate passersby with the inevitable timeworn claims of the other candidate's corruption, financial irregularities and abuse of power. In fact, Mansour published his little black book Against Corruption stuffed with shocking stories about Darwish which he issued for free to club members.
The shocking decline of the club's soccer team must have helped Mansour's cause. The defending local champions, Zamalek are currently languishing in fifth place in the league standings with just two games left and more than 30 points behind the league leaders. Although the team won 11 local, Arab and African championships in the last three years, this season's string of disastrous results had a strong impact on voters.
Darwish added to the disarray after many key players -- the Hassan twins, Beshir El-Tabei, Islam El-Shater and Shikabala -- departed without being replaced by competent players.
In addition to that, the terrible standard of the club facilities such as lavatories, gardens, courts. They want it a five star club like the Ahli Club.
Zamalek club, variously known as the White House and White Castle because of the white jersey, was founded in 1911 by Marzbach, a Belgian, followed by another Belgian, Bianchi. It has been an Egyptian show ever since.
Ismail Selim was elected vice president with 9,787 votes while El-Mamdouh El-Husseini was voted in as funds trustee with 9,869 votes.
Other members on the board were Ahmed Galal Ibrahim who received 10,117 votes, thanks to his politeness and his father's input as former club president during his reign in the nineties. Azmi Megahed won 9,443 votes, Yasser Idris garnered 9,272 votes, Khaled Latif, son of famed, late sports broadcaster Mohamed Latif 7,582 votes, and Mohamed El- Sokkari with 5,866 votes.
Karim Hassan Shehata, was the highest board vote-getter with 10,587. National team coach and father Hassan Shehata, remained by his son's side until the results were released.
Another new member was basketball star Haytham El-Said who took in 7,386 votes. For the auditor position, Hazem Abdel-Tawab's auditing office won 4,768 votes. Its role will be to supervise the financial dealings of the club independently.
No woman won a place on the board.
Police and security did their best to facilitate traffic in the area surrounding the club. Most people had to walk the last few hundred metres to reach the club after cars had virtually taken over the surrounding vicinity.
Despite the high turnout the club did surprisingly well in streamlining the voting procedure. A jam- packed queue stretched for around 50 metres. The dust kicked up on the sandy courts were the sole inconvenience. The election tents were built on the sand despite the spacious green courts the club enjoys.
Having entered the first of two large tents, the process took less than 10 minutes. Voters were first checked by their membership cards and government IDs. They were then asked to go to the nearest polling booth depending on the numbers on their card. They were given a list of candidate names next to which they were to put check marks.