Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1259, (20 - 26 August 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Against the current

The Wafd Party’s Reform Current inaugurates its new, controversial headquarters, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

The liberal Wafd Party's Reform Current this week accused the party's Chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi of failing to manage the party and of monopolising all the decisions that relate to the party.

In its founding statement during the opening of its new and separate headquarters in Dokki — the same neighbourhood as the main headquarters — the reform faction on Friday also accused Al-Badawi of circumventing the regulations and constants of the Wafd, the oldest political party in Egypt.

“The failed policies of Al-Badawi led to the loss of the credibility of the party and even tarnished its image on the political scene. Moreover, it resulted in the loss of the party's funds which nowadays threatens to stop issuing the party's newspaper,” the statement said.

For Reform Current leaders, the Wafd was and still is a key tributary of the Egyptian national political movement and therefore seeks to perform its role in the Egyptian political scene as a representative entity of the constants and principles of the Wafd Party.

The 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 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.

In addition to leading Wafdist Fouad Badrawi, Reform Current includes Essam Sheiha, Yassin Tageddin, Mustafa Raslan, Abdel-Aziz Al-Nahhas, Sherif Taher and Ahmed Younis. The seven were sacked on 29 May following a dispute within the party after trying to restructure the party, amend its statutes and dismiss party chairman Al-Badawi. Their sacking led to the recent establishment of a separate entity, Reform Current, which they see as holding the real Wafdist principles.

In response, Wafd spokesman Bahgat Al-Hossami said that the opening of the headquarters of Reform Current was illegal. “Opening a separate headquarters exposes Reform Current to legal accountability because it will be engaged in political and party work without permission and outside the legal framework,” Al-Hossami said.

“How can a group of sacked members who lack any partisan status engage in partisan work without a legal basis?” Al-Hossami asked.

Wafd Vice President Mohamed Abdel-Alim accused Reform Current of planning a plot. “What Reform Current of Wafd Party is doing is considered a plot hatched by the former US ambassador David Welch,” Abdel-Alim said, adding that the stream is financed from abroad.

Reform Current leaders described Abdel-Alim's statement as lies which do not deserve comment.

“The Reform Current is preparing for a mass conference to be held in one of the Nile Delta governorates,” Sheiha said. “In the rally, it will announce a new document which will describe what is happening inside the party and will also reveal its future actions,” he added.

“The Reform Current seeks to visit more than one province in order to mobilise support for the upcoming parliamentary elections,” Sheiha said. “In next week's rally it will announce its stance regarding the upcoming parliamentary elections and also its position on joining or creating a political alliance in the political scene.”

Parliamentary elections are slated for this year.

Badrawi, who ran against Al-Badawi for the party chairmanship in 2014 and lost by 200 votes, said that the party represented by Current Reform will open a dialogue with political parties and forces to negotiate a reunion to work together as the parliamentary elections near. “The Reform Current is seeking to form a broad civil alliance that believes in a modern and democratic state,” Badrawi said.

The Wafd rift began when Reform Current figures, who are former higher 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 the Wafd Party's high board at which the party chairman's supporters voted to suspend the membership of Reform Current figures and refer them to a disciplinary committee.

Following presidential intervention aimed at reconciliation, the dispute reached its peak when the party sacked Reform Current figures on 29 May. According to Al-Hossami, the dismissals were issued “because they refused to be reappointed to the high board and have not attended any meetings to resolve the conflict”.

Sheiha emphasised that they were not officially invited to attend the high board meeting. “We were scheduled to meet 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 he 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 Reform Current leaders.

The dispute has overtones of 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 began calling for a change in leadership, the party's Political Bureau dismissed Gomaa and appointed Mahmoud Abaza as interim leader.

A legal battle ensued, with Gomaa filing a complaint with the prosecutor-general against what he called his “illegitimate sacking”, arguing that only the party's General Assembly had the authority to dismiss him.

The General Assembly sacked Gomaa and appointed Mustafa Al-Tawil as interim leader.

In one of the more bizarre developments of 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 party's headquarters destroyed by fire.

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