Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1245, (7 - 13 May 2015)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1245, (7 - 13 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Dissensions in Al-Wafd

Divisions have hit Egypt’s venerable Al-Wafd Party in the wake of an attempt to remove the party’s leader, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

After at least 1,200 members of the liberal Al-Wafd Party, including eight of the party’s board members, withdrew their confidence in the party president Sayed Al-Badawi on Friday, it was announced that the membership of the eight board members had been suspended and they had been referred to a disciplinary board.

The decision, taken during an emergency meeting of the now-dissolved board, came at the request of Al-Badawi.

Eight members of the party’s board held a mass meeting in the Sharqiya governorate in the Nile Delta on Friday attended by hundreds of party members in order to announce their withdrawal of confidence in Al-Badawi, a businessman who was elected party head in 2010 and saw the renewal of his mandate in 2014.

“Al-Badawi has been misusing his power as party leader, giving himself absolute authority over party decisions as if he were running one of his companies,” Essam Sheha, the legal advisor of the Al-Wafd Party and one of the dissident board members, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Sheha said that Al-Badawi had not revealed the party’s budget for the past five years, even though there had been rumours that the party was on the brink of bankruptcy.

“We were compelled to hold our meeting in Sharqiya instead of the party’s headquarters in Dokki because Al-Badawi hired a private security company which had a list of who to let inside,” Sheha said.

Party spokesman Bahgat Al-Hossami, defending Al-Badawi, described the Sharqiya meeting as “media propaganda promoted by rogue party members.” Al-Hossami said that the appointment of the security guards at the party headquarters had been due to “threats of attacks” against the premises.

Though Al-Wafd Party bylaws say only 500 members are necessary to withdraw confidence from the party’s head before action is taken, Sheha said that “1,200 party members withdrew their confidence in Al-Badawi during the Sharqiya meeting.

”Al-Hossami claimed that “they didn’t exceed 300 individuals.”

In response, Sheha said that the signatures of the 1,200 members had been documented and each was accompanied by a party membership number. “Moreover, the Sharqiya meeting was recorded on video and is available on Youtube for anyone who misbelieves the number of attendees,” Sheha said.

The members who attended the meeting asked 16 members of the board to take over responsibility for managing the party until a new legal representative was chosen.

Fouad Badrawi, a candidate for the presidency in the 2014 Party elections, heads the dissident group. “The Sharqiya meeting was not conducted to withdraw confidence from the president, but rather to ask him to leave voluntarily, and it was approved by the 1,200 members who attended the meeting,” he said.

Prompted by the Sharqiya meeting, Al-Badawi called an emergency meeting on the same day of the party’s board, already dissolved last week on his orders before new elections on 15 May.

During the emergency meeting, Al-Badawi announced that eight board members had been suspended and referred for investigation. The eight members are Badrawi, Sheha, Yassin Tageddin, Mustafa Raslan, Abdel-Aziz Al-Nahas, Sherif Taher, Ahmed Younis and Mohamed Al-Messiri.

“Such an emergency meeting is illegal. The board has already been dissolved, a quorum was not reached as only 16 of 60 members attended it, and we as board members were not invited,” Sheha said.

He added that Al-Badawi, after the vote of confidence is no longer head of the party, and did not have the authority to call the meeting or suspend the board members.
Badrawi will file a lawsuit against the party’s board alleging that it acted illegally.

Al-Wafd is the oldest political party in Egypt and was established in 1918 as a mass movement to support the Egyptian delegation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference after the First World War. The delegation demanded the country’s right to self-determination and freedom from British occupation.

The party played an important role during the 1923-1952 period and regained legal status in 1978 after re-emerging from the old Al-Wafd Party. In the last parliamentary elections in 2012, the party won 9.2 per cent of the vote, having 38 seats in the 508-seat parliament.

The party’s internal dispute comes at a time when Egypt has lacked a parliament since 2012. Parliamentary elections, initially scheduled for March and April this year, have been indefinitely postponed until the electoral laws are redrafted after the High Constitutional Court declared them to be unconstitutional.

The current dispute echoes 2006 divisions within the party, which also took place in April. On the earlier occasion, disputes broke out when Al-Wafd leader Noaman Gomaa sacked his second-in-command Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour.

When Abdel-Nour and his supporters began calling for a “change of leadership,” the party’s Political Bureau revoked Gomaa’s decision to fire Abdel-Nour. The party’s board then dismissed Gomaa and appointed Mahmoud Abaza as interim leader.

A legal battle ensued, with Gomaa filing a complaint with the prosecutor-general against his “illegitimate sacking,” saying that only the party’s General Assembly was entitled to relieve him of his post.
The General Assembly later sacked Gomaa and appointed Mustafa Al-Tawil as interim leader.

The strife within the party took a further turn when Gomaa and his supporters broke into the party’s headquarters and opened fire on a rival faction. Some 23 people were injured in the subsequent battle, and Gomaa was arrested in the aftermath of the incident.

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