Al-Ahram Weekly Online   2 - 8 June 2005
Issue No. 745
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

'I did everything I could'

Mona El-Nahhas speaks with veteran political figure Mona Makram Ebeid about her sudden resignation from the Ghad Party

Former MP Mona Makram Ebeid surprised commentators this week when she announced her resignation as secretary-general of Al-Ghad. She will also leave the party.

Ebeid, who has a reputation for being uncompromising, said she made the decision after losing patience with the behaviour of some party members. Insisting her decision is final, she nonetheless paid tribute to Ayman Nour, Al-Ghad's leader, expressing the hope that he will be able to get the party back on track.

When you joined the Ghad Party you saw it very much as the party of the future. You defended Ayman Nour throughout his detention and worked hard to maintain unity in the party's ranks. Why, then, have you decided now to leave the party?

What triggered my enthusiasm for the party was that it seemed to herald a break with Egypt's authoritarian past. There was a need for a party based on the liberal principles with which Egyptians have been familiar since they were introduced in 1919 by Saad Zaghloul and his colleagues.

The successful launch of the party last October, and the support it attracted, mainly among the young, confirmed these early impressions.

Unfortunately, the arrest and the subsequent detention of Ayman Nour hampered the party's ability to move forward. It was during this crucial period that I came to realise that while some members were keen to help me build the party as an institution others were vying to replace Nour. The in-fighting and dissension increased.

I did everything I could to try and maintain unity, and postponed my decision to resign, which had been on my mind for some time, until Nour was released and could take over.

I had expected that after his release he would put the house in order. But other pre-occupations -- launching the party newspaper and pursuing his campaign for the presidency -- have prevented him from focusing on the much-needed overhaul of the party.

So you have no problems with Ayman Nour?

Certainly not. On the contrary, I consider him a savvy politician, a brilliant parliamentarian and a charismatic, popular figure capable of mobilising the young. That's why my decision to resign from the party was not an easy one to take.

Sources close to the party say Nour has tried to persuade you to change your mind. Will you?

Of course not. The decision was taken after long and careful reflection.

What impact will your resignation have on the party?

My resignation could lead to a long-needed shake-up. Most of the party's members have called, passed by or sent telegrams asking me to reconsider my decision, and I am grateful to them. But I think, in the end, my departure provides a useful challenge for them to surmount. The party must learn from past mistakes.

Given that you have been a member of the Wafd and Al-Ghad, how would you assess the state of the opposition parties?

Political parties are often thought of as weak and ineffective. People tend to forget the restrictions under which they operate, and the sometimes insurmountable obstacles placed in front of a whole range of party activities. But that said, we should concede that the parties themselves bear some responsibility for their lack of grass-roots support.

It was, and remains, my hope that the Ghad Party will be able to lead the way out of this quagmire, providing a fresh start for a country fed up with political stagnation.

Now you have left the party what are your plans?

I believe I can best serve those causes -- political reform, empowerment of women, human rights, education -- that I consider important at this critical juncture in Egypt's political history as an independent member of the opposition. And my supporters in the Shubra constituency, where I ran in 1984 and 1987, prefer me to run as an independent.

I know it will be a tough campaign but I've been heartened to learn that several women from NGOs have already announced their support for me, alongside the people of Shubra.

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