7 - 13 September 2000
Issue No. 498
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Collective sigh of reliefBy Shaden Shehab
In calm elections for the post of Wafd Party chairman last Friday, No'man Gomaa, who previously served as first deputy chairman, won 500 votes out of a total of 639, or 78.25 per cent of valid votes. Gomaa had already filled the chairman's post on an interim basis following the death of Fouad Serageddin on 9 August. According to the statutes of the largest opposition party, if the chairman's post becomes vacant the senior deputy chairman takes over until the general assembly meets within 60 days to elect a successor.
Gomaa's main rival was Fouad Badrawi, grandson of Serageddin and assistant secretary-general. Badrawi had told Al Ahram Weekly before the results were announced that he was a "popular figure and strong competition to Gomaa". However, he won only 129 votes, or 20.2 per cent. "Badrawi is a very respectable and honourable party figure. But now is not his time; he will probably be elected after Gomaa serves his term," commented Wagih Abaza, a member of the liberal wing. "We are facing crucial times with parliamentary elections approaching. In the last few years, the pasha (Serageddin) suffered from poor health and it was Gomaa who ran party affairs. He already has enough experience."
The two other candidates won a total of 10 votes. Medhat Khafagi, a member of Wafd's Supreme Authority and a surgeon, won eight votes. Abdel-Mohsen Hammouda, an outsider and a professor at Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering, managed to win two votes.
Although Gomaa's victory was expected, observers had expressed fears that splits might occur as a result of the power struggle. Since Serageddin's death, numerous party members had exchanged accusations and counter-accusations. Two lawsuits were filed by Khafagi contesting the legality of the elections, although both were thrown out by courts. After the results were announced, many members breathed a sigh of relief because they had been "smooth and democratic".
Gomaa and Badrawi clasping hands in a show of unity
And they made the point of affirming that they will be "as strong and as united as ever". Slogans such as "Fouad (Badrawi) and No'man (Gomaa) will bring the old Wafd back", "We are behind you, No'man" and "Long live the unity of Wafd" were yelled in frenzy just before the results were announced, despite the news that Gomaa had won had already begun to circulate. In order to promote a unified image, when the results were actually announced Gomaa and Badrawi tightly clasped hands amidst the applause of a large crowd yelling in favour of concord. At that moment, however, Khafagi and Hammouda could not be seen.
The required quorum was 50 per cent, plus one, of the total number of registered general assembly members. Out of a total 843 registered members. 645 cast votes, exceeding the required number by 222. The valid votes totalled 639.
The voting process was supervised and monitored by 5 committees headed by non-party members, namely: Makram Mohamed Ahmed, Osama El-Ghazali Harb, Kamel Zoheiri, Ibrahim Darwish and Wahid Abdel-Meguid.
Gomaa announced that he will not depart from the late Serageddin's line, although he will introduce some changes. He said that "the current stage the Wafd is going through, after Fouad Serageddin's death, is a stage of transition from leadership to mere chairmanship". He added that Serageddin's successor "will have to revise the party's statutes, especially those dealing with the authority of the chairman and the duration of his term, because they were only suitable for a man of Fouad Serageddin's calibre."
Quoted by the party's mouthpiece, Gomaa said that "the time of competing for the chairmanship of the party is over; we have to stand united in order to achieve success in the coming [parliamentary] elections." Meetings are planned for the next few days to draw up the party's election strategy.
Gomaa, 66, was not a party member at the time of the 1952 anti-monarchy revolution that dissolved all political parties and introduced a one-party system. When the Wafd staged a comeback in 1978 after the revival of the multi-party system, Gomaa was one of the founders. He became assistant secretary-general in 1986 and deputy chairman in 1989.
Gomaa was born in the Nile Delta town of Shebin El-Kom. He obtained a bachelor's degree in law from Cairo University in 1956 and joined the army as a volunteer in the same year, when the nation was facing an Anglo-French-Israeli invasion. He was captured by French forces, but managed to escape. He served as an assistant district attorney until 1961. Winning a scholarship for advanced studies in France, he obtained a Doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1966 and later taught law there. During his stay in France, he blamed Gamal Abdel-Nasser's regime for Egypt's defeat in the 1967 War. Upon his return to Egypt in 1970, he joined the staff of Cairo University's Faculty of Law and also opened a law practice. In 1988, he became the faculty dean.
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