Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1330, (2 - 8 February 2017)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1330, (2 - 8 February 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Forgetting the party invites

A fresh divisions in the Dostour Party after it elects a new chairman

Following internal elections the Dostour Party faces possible challenges that could impact its legal status.

The crisis erupted on Saturday when the party’s election committee announced that its former spokesperson Khaled Dawoud was the new chairman of the party. Dawoud won the election in the absence of any other candidates. Yet the electoral process was immediately rejected by the party’s own “council of wise men”.

Early in January the party’s higher committee called for internal elections. All procedures specified by the party’s internal bylaws were abided by and there was no objection from the “council of wise men” at the time. By 22 January, the deadline to submit nominations, Dawoud was the only candidate. No appeals were made against his candidacy when the election committee announced the final list a day later allowing the committee to announce Dawoud as the new president of the party. His “Together We Can” list also won the secretary-general and treasury seats.  

It was then that the “council of wise men” issued a statement saying, “the election was not conducted according to the party’s bylaws and its internal system and therefore the results are invalid.”

The statement added that elections are in fact scheduled for March and the holding of an earlier “illegal election” would be investigated to determine what disciplinary actions — they may include expelling members who were part of the election committee that organised the elections — were appropriate.  

In response Dawoud told Al-Ahram Weekly that the electoral process was legal and conducted according to the party’s bylaws.

“The higher committee of the party has the authority to call for and organise elections. At no stage of the election process did the council of wise men object. Indeed, two of its members issued statements congratulating the winners,” said Dawoud.

Dawoud blamed the “council of wise men” for all the conflicts within the party over the last three years.

“This council has done nothing but stop elections from being held. It failed to save the party from the turmoil which resulted in it losing every one of its governorate offices.”

Dawoud added that the party’s membership has plunged over the last year and its bank accounts are empty.

The dispute between Dawoud and the council is expected to move to the Administrative Court which will then determine whether the electoral process was legal or not. If not, elections will have to be rescheduled. Yet a defiant Dawoud said he will continue to rebuild the party, particularly among young people outside Cairo.

The Dostour Party was founded in April 2012 by Mohamed ElBaradei, a former vice president in the 2013 transitional government. It became embroiled in a series of crises following ElBaradei’s resignation from the transitional government. In February 2014 Hala Shukrallah, the first Coptic woman to be elected to lead a political party in Egypt, became the Dostour’s head. She resigned in July 2015, citing internal divisions as the reason, leaving the Dostour leaderless till now.

Rifts between the party’s leaders arose over the constitutional referendum of 2014, the presidential election later in the same year, and the 2015 parliamentary elections. The party’s secretary-general, Tamer Gomaa resigned in August 2016 after dissolving the election committee.

The Dostour is not the only party to descend into seemingly irreconcilable differences. Last month the Free Egyptian Party, which won the largest number of party-based MPs in parliament, saw disputes between party leaders over changes to its bylaws. The fighting led to the resignation of several leading members. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Popular Socialist Alliance Party have also been prey to rifts while last year disputes in the Wafd Party were only contained by high level mediation led by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

Akram Alfi, an expert on political parties in Egypt, says the vast majority of parties have lost all credibility. They are disconnected from the public, have zero grassroots presence and lack the necessary internal structures to prevent them from crumbling into irrelevance.

“When parties lose the institutional capacity to operate and contain conflicts they face one of two scenarios, either they disappear or else their activities are frozen by the courts, the fate of many political parties during the last two decades in Egypt,” says Alfi.

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