Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1248, (28 May - 3 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Wafd reunion efforts continue

Attempts are continuing to try to heal the rift in the liberal Wafd Party, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Reformers in Egypt’s liberal Wafd Party cautiously welcomed a statement on Monday that had been issued a day earlier by Party Chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi in which he attempted to contain the month-long dispute that has been tearing apart the party.

In the statement, Al-Badawi declared the appointment of seven members of the party’s Reform Front to its executive board.

On May 19, it was decided that just five members of the Front would join the board, a decision viewed as being not enough to end the internal split. In his statement, Al-Badawi also called for amending the party’s internal statutes in a way that would meet the demands of the Reform Front.

Party spokesperson Bahgat Al-Hussami said “the party decided to appoint seven members of the Reform Front to the board following a meeting between Al-Badawi and party secretary-general Bahaaeddin Abu Shaqa. Al-Badawi and Abu Shaqa agreed that any proposals presented by the Reform Front to amend the by-laws of the party would be welcome,” he added.

On 1 May, the party suspended the memberships of eight members of its 60-member board following their announcement that they were withdrawing their confidence in Al-Badawi.

In addition to leading party member Fouad Badrawi, the eight included Essam Shiha, Yassin Tageddin, Mustafa Raslan, Abdel-Aziz Al-Nahas, Sherif Taher, Ahmed Younis and Mohamed Al-Messeiri. The eight are part of the party’s Reform Front that wants to see changes in the way the party is run.

The Front welcomed Al-Badawi’s statement, describing it as “positive.” However, it also called for the introduction of mechanisms that would guarantee the implementation of the resolutions mentioned in the statement.

“We are willing to let the reconciliation initiative succeed and keen on seeing the reunion of the party. Hence, we welcome Al-Badawi’s statement,” Shiha told the Weekly, describing the views of the Reform Front.

On 21 May, the Front held a press conference in Cairo at which it announced its conditions for healing the rift in the party. “Reconciliation will only be achieved through Al-Badawi’s implementation of all the points that were agreed upon during the meeting with president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi,” Abdel-Aziz Al-Nahhas said during the conference held two days after the appointment of the five dissident party members to the board.

Al-Sisi met Al-Badawi and leading party members who had been suspended from the board on 13 May in a bid to reach a compromise to end the crisis in the party.

Though signs following the meeting with the president, taking place only two days before the party board elections, indicated that a solution to the crisis could be near, the situation deteriorated after last week’s decision to appoint only five members to the board.

“Al-Sisi called for the appointment of all eight of the suspended members, not just five. Al-Badawi has violated what was agreed upon during the presidential meeting,” Fouad Badrawi said.

Badrawi ran against Al-Badawi for the party chairmanship in 2014 and lost by 200 votes.

At the press conference, the Front warned of “escalation” if the party chairman did not respond to its conditions. These included reintegrating all suspended party members, amending the party’s internal statutes, reforming the board of the party, and appointing ten Reform Front members to the board.

Following Sunday’s statement, considered a response to these conditions, the Front vowed to calm the atmosphere and wait for the implementation of the decisions mentioned in Al-Badawi’s statement.

“Our belief in the national role of the Wafd Party obliges us to continue the reconciliation dialogue,” Shiha said. He added that the Front would visit “almost all the provinces” in order to mobilise support for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

There has not been a parliament in Egypt since 2012. Parliamentary elections, initially scheduled for March and April this year, have been indefinitely postponed until the electoral laws are redrafted after the Higher Constitutional Court declared them to be unconstitutional.

“We believe the Wafd will play a key role in the coming political phase, including in the parliamentary elections and in forming the next government,” Shiha said.

The rift in the Wafd began when the eight board members held a meeting in Sharqiya on 1 May during which 1,200 party members announced they no longer had confidence in Al-Badawi.

Under party rules a no-confidence motion supported by 500 members automatically triggers action. Immediately following the Sharqiya meeting, Al-Badawi called for an emergency session of the party’s board at which his supporters voted to suspend the membership of the eight and refer them to a disciplinary committee.

The dispute is reminiscent of that in April 2006 when the then Wafd leader, Noaman Gomaa, sacked his second-in-command, Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, now minister of industry and trade.

When Abdel-Nour and his supporters called for a change in leadership, the party’s political bureau dismissed Gomaa and appointed Mahmoud Abaza as interim leader instead.

A legal battle ensued, with Gomaa filing a complaint with the prosecutor-general against his “illegitimate sacking” and arguing that only the party’s general assembly had the authority to dismiss him.

The assembly then sacked Gomaa and appointed Mustafa Al-Tawil as interim leader.

In one of the more bizarre developments in the 2006 dispute, Gomaa and his supporters broke into the Wafd Party’s headquarters and opened fire on their rivals. Gomaa was arrested in the aftermath of the incident, which left 23 people injured and parts of the headquarters destroyed by fire.

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