Al-Ahram Weekly Online   13 - 19 October 2011
Issue No. 1068
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

A final separation

The controversial honeymoon between the Wafd Party and the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party is over, reports Mona El-Nahhas

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El-Sayed El-Badawi

After two weeks of indecision the Wafd has ended its electoral coalition with the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

The decision was made on 5 October following a meeting of the Wafd's higher committee, headed by party chairman El-Sayed El-Badawi. The meeting, which lasted for nearly four hours, saw heated exchanges between those in favour of the election pact and the majority of members who opposed it.

The final vote confirmed the same committee's recommendation two weeks earlier that the coalition be ended. Greeted with relief by many party members, the recommendation was immediately overturned by El-Badawi who announced the coalition would continue "perhaps beyond the polls".

The Democratic Coalition for Egypt, from which the Wafd Party has now withdrawn, was formed a few months ago to prepare for the parliamentary polls scheduled to begin in November. It had grouped together the Wafd and Freedom and Justice parties with a host of smaller parties hoping to gain seats on the coattails of the "big two".

Disputes over candidate numbers preceded the Wafd's withdrawal. Head of the coalition's electoral coordination committee Wahid Abdel-Meguid has said the Wafd was demanding its candidates stand in 40 per cent of seats, leaving too few constituencies for the coalition's junior partners.

Despite abandoning any formal electoral pact the Wafd insists it will continue to coordinate with the coalition.

According to party sources the Wafd now intends to field candidates in all seats. Essam Shiha, a leading member of the higher committee, told Al - Ahram Weekly on Monday that candidate lists will include higher committee members, former Wafdist MPs and prominent public figures who are not necessarily party members. Shiha did not exclude the possibility of including names of dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP) deputies who ran in the 2010 parliamentary polls as independents.

Withdrawing from the coalition may strengthen the Wafd's political identity but it could see the party excluded from power.

"The coalition is expected to win a majority of parliamentary seats on the back of MB's popularity and organisation," says political analyst Amr Hashim Rabie. "It will then form a coalition government from which the Wafd will be excluded."

The pact between the Wafd and Freedom and Justice was widely seen as the result of electoral calculation rather than a reflection of any agreement on policy.

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