Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 October 2012
Issue No. 1118
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Splinters and settlements

Has the power struggle within the Salafist Nour Party reached its end?

It appears that the conflict that erupted in the Nour Party last week, leading to the sacking of Emad Abdel-Ghafour as the party's president, has been doused, reports Amani Maged. For the moment at least, the frenzy of conjecture over whether the Salafist political movement was on the verge of collapse or whether the whole affair was just a storm in a teacup has subsided. Salafi leaders have resolved to mend their rifts, while remaining dissenters have broken away to form a new party.

The Nour Party's general assembly is scheduled to meet later today. According to some the aim of the meeting is to formally ratify Abdel-Ghafour's dismissal.

Talaat Marzouk, head of the party's legal committee and a member of its supreme board, says the assembly will vote to approve Abdel-Ghafour continuing as president until the end of the parliamentary elections. This, though, is little more than a mollifying gesture since the assembly's agenda also includes electing a new party chairman, a new supreme board, and approval of the annual budget.

The Nour Party's general assembly comprises its representatives in the dissolved People's Assembly and the Shura Council, members of the party's permanent central committees formed before the last parliamentary elections, founding members from the party's affiliates in governorates and five representatives from each governorate.

Speaking to the press Marzouk said a "reconciliation agreement" had been filed with the Political Party Affairs Committee. The agreement, signed by Nour Party figures, provides for Abdel-Ghafour and Mustafa Khalifa to continue as president and vice president and for the convening of the party's first general assembly meeting. The agreement also stipulates that contradictory decisions issued by the supreme board and Abdel-Ghafour over expanding membership of the board and the party's senate should be withdrawn, that the two sides should resolve their differences in the presence of legal advisors, and that elections to the board and senate should proceed as scheduled.

Yosri Hamad, a member of the supreme board and official Nour Party spokesman, insists the purpose of the forthcoming general assembly is not to confirm Abdel-Ghafour's dismissal. He predicts that the assembly will approve Abdel-Ghafour's continuing in his post after parliamentary elections.

Breakaway members from the Nour Party have formed the Salafist Front. Speaking to the media on its behalf, Khaled Said announced that the group had almost completed the measures necessary to form a new party which they have decided to call the People's Party. He added that the front would be holding a press conference in the next few days to officially announce their party and explain its platform.

The Salafist Front includes mainly young members who broke away from Salafist Calling during the 25 January Revolution. They took part in many of the revolution's activities, from the million-man marches to the protests calling for the end to military rule, at a time when Salafist Calling refused to condome demonstrations against the Mubarak regime.

Some observers believe that the new party will struggle to compete with the Nour Party which includes prominent Salafist Calling figures such as Yasser Burhami and Said Abdel-Azim.

Other more optimistic observers believe that the People's Party will try to hold talks with liberal forces and with the Muslim Brotherhood. They feel that the new party has a good chance of reaching an understanding with the latter in the light of increasing tensions between the established Salafist groups and the Muslim Brothers. Recent statements issued by Yasser Burhami, vice president of the Salafist Calling, regarding contacts between Muslim Brotherhood leaders and former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik, upped the ante. Burhami revealed no names and said that he preferred not to discuss details of the communications at present.

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