Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1338, (30 March - 5 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Party poopers

Members of the Free Egyptians Party re-elect Essam Khalil as chairman

Last week saw rifts within the Free Egyptian Party (FEP) deepen as Essam Khalil was re-elected as chairman, sidelining members who remain loyal to the founder of the party Naguib Sawiris.

Party members — more than the required quorum of 450 — gathered at a Cairo hotel on Friday where Khalil, the only candidate, retained his post as party head. Fifty board members were also elected from 83 candidates.

“We must cooperate to build the party after correcting its path,” Khalil said. He added that the party is ready to reach out to citizens.

The number of members attending the general assembly, Khalil insisted, is proof that the elections were legitimate and transparent.

“I want to say that our MPs are doing their best to serve the country and their constituencies. We need to preserve our position as the leading party in parliament,” he said, an oblique response to allegations by Sawiris that the party’s MPs back each and any government decision.

Sawiris commented on the results via his Twitter account.  “Four-hundred of 100,000 founding members of the Free Egyptians Party elect a chairman through acclamation, in an illegal election,” Sawiris wrote.

“I fully trust our fair judiciary to end this chaos, which disrespects the bylaws made by the party’s committee, and we will soon witness a closure to this farce,” Sawiris said, referring to members who attempted to attend the vote but were prevented from entering.

Sawiris has singled out MP Alaa Abed, chair of the FEP’s Organisational Committee, for particular criticism. The founder of the party accuses Abed of being “so loyal” that he is willing to transgress liberal party’s founding principles. He has already filed a lawsuit against Abed for his “transgressions”.

A former police officer, Abed joined the FEP ahead of the parliamentary elections two years ago. The FEP went on to win 65 seats and elected Abed as head of its parliamentary bloc.

“Nobody will stop the party and its chairman from correcting the path and start rebuilding the party. We are working to build the biggest party in Egypt,” Abed said after the party’s elections.

The FEP was torn apart by disputes over plans to elect a new president and 50 members of the supreme body in March.

Problems first surfaced in December when the party’s chairman called for a general assembly at which party members voted to dissolve the board of trustees which included Sawiris, the party’s founder and leading financial backer. Khalil then held a press conference on 31 December at which he announced that the general conference had approved changes to the party’s bylaws and the dissolution of the board of trustees, until then the supreme authority within the party. The board responded by describing the moves as a coup. It issued a statement rejecting the amendment, and raised the spectre of more feuding.

“The general assembly’s meeting to amend the bylaws violated Article 59 of the bylaws which stipulates the board must approve any bylaw amendments,” the statement said.

“The board of trustees declares its full rejection of the illegal coup by those who claim to be working in the interests of the country and who fail to realise that Egypt’s main project at this stage is to fully complete its democratic transition,” the statement continued.

Party poopers

Sawiris took the dispute to court in January and on 14 February held a rally for party members loyal to him. Hundreds of members who had left the party in previous months attended the rally and announced their support for the board of trustees and their rejection of the current leadership.

In response, the party’s Disciplinary Committee dismissed Sawiris on 20 February for “violating the party’s bylaws and insulting the party’s leadership”.

Unlike many other political parties, the FEP had escaped turmoil until recently.

Last month the Dostour Party was riven by disputes after the election of its new chairman. Internal divisions have also plagued the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Popular Socialist Alliance Party. Recently there was a clash between leading figures in the Wafd Party over the party’s performance in parliament.

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