Sunday,15 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)
Sunday,15 July, 2018
Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Beginning of the end

The crisis in the liberal Al-Wafd Party reached its peak this week after seven leading members were sacked, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

The higher board of the liberal Al-Wafd, the oldest party in Egypt, decided to sack seven prominent members who had been leading a reform front.

The front is pressing for restructuring the party, amending its statutes and dismissing party Chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi.

The decision to dismiss the members, made by the higher board on 29 May, came just four days after Al-Badawi appointed them to the party’s board in an attempt to contain the escalating dispute within party ranks.

The seven are Fouad Badrawi, Essam Sheiha, Yassin Tageddin, Mustafa Raslan, Abdel-Aziz Al-Nahhas, Sherif Taher and Ahmed Younis.

According to the party’s spokesman Bahgat Al-Hossami, the dismissals came because “they refused to be appointed to the high board and have not attended any meetings to resolve the conflict”.

Essam Shiha denied the claim. “We were scheduled to meet with Al-Badawi on 28 May. However, it was Al-Badawi himself who apologised for not being able to attend that day. We were informed that Al-Badawi would set a date for another meeting.” The 28 May meeting was scheduled to discuss the timetable for implementing what was agreed upon between the two battling sides -- Al-Badawi and the Reform Front leaders.

“Besides, we were not officially invited to attend the high board meeting held the following day, " Shiha noted.

Badrawi, former secretary-general of the party who ran against Al-Badawi for the party chairmanship in 2014 and lost by 200 votes, sharply criticised the decision of the high board in general and Al-Badawi in particular. “Al-Badawi did not abide by the agreement we reached during our meeting with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in which he promised to resolve the crisis by sitting with the seven members and reaching a settlement,” Badrawi said. He, like Shiha, stated that he did not attend the high board meeting on 29 May because he was not invited.

On 21 May, the Reform Front held a press conference in Cairo in which it announced its demands 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 Al-Sisi,” Abdel-Aziz Al-Nahhas said.
On 13 May, Al-Sisi met Al-Badawi and leading party members who had been previously suspended from the high board in a bid to reach a compromise.
Though signs following the meeting with the president indicated that a solution was near, the situation deteriorated after Al-Badawi’s decision on 19 May to appoint only five members to the board. When the Reform Front rejected the appointment of only five, Al-Badawi increased the number to seven on 25 May.

After those appointments, Shiha told Al-Ahram Weekly last week: “We are willing to let the reconciliation initiative succeed and we are keen on seeing the party reunite. Hence, we welcomed Al-Badawi’s decision.”

The front had earlier warned of “escalation” if the party chairman did not respond to its demands. These included bringing back all suspended party members, amending the party’s statutes, reforming its board, and appointing 10 Reform Front members to the board.

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

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

“It has become clear to public opinion and to the Wafdist community that Al-Badawi has no credibility concerning what he pledged to the president. He sacked us twice in six weeks,” Shiha said.

“Meanwhile, the front will not ignore any path or initiative aimed at removing Al-Badawi,” said Shiha, who in an earlier interview with the Weekly accused Al-Badawi of misusing his power as party leader, giving himself absolute authority over party decisions “as if he were running one of his companies”.

The Al-Wafd rift began when eight high 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 triggers immediate action. Immediately following the Sharqiya meeting Al-Badawi called for an emergency session of Al-Wafd Party’s high board at which the party chairman’s supporters voted to suspend the membership of their eight colleagues, including the seven sacked members and Mohamed Al-Messeiri, and refer them to a disciplinary committee.

On 1 June, Al-Badawi ordered the renewal of the membership of 52 party members who were sacked in 2012 because they reportedly did not adhere to the party’s commitment by participating in the parliamentary elections at that time. Al-Badawi’s decision is seen as a step towards the holding of parliamentary elections.

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

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