Friday,26 May, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)
Friday,26 May, 2017
Issue 1344, (11 - 17 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Two chairmen, one party

The Free Egyptian Party now has two chairmen and two higher committees, writes Mohamed Abdel-Baky

#Khalil #Al-Alaili
# #

The rift in the Free Egyptian Party (FEP) took a new turn as the committee supervising elections held by the “Sawiris’ faction” named a new chairman of the party.

On Saturday the committee announced 50 out of 192 nominees had been elected to the party’s Higher Committee. A day earlier, on Friday, Mahmoud Al-Alaili was named chairman of the party. Ahmed Samer won the post of secretary-general with 479 votes.

The elections, which were attended by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, were held on Friday at the party’s old headquarters in downtown Cairo. The offices are no longer being used by the Essam Khalil faction.

The supervising committee said the quorum for elections was met since 1,198 out of the party’s 4,551 party members attended. The total number of votes cast was 536.

The Free Egyptian Party, founded by Sawiris following the 25 January 2011 Revolution, holds the largest number of parliamentary seats of any party.

During Friday’s elections Sawiris said electing a new chairman and higher committee was an important step to “restoring the party”.

“I will do whatever it takes to save the party from collapsing,” vowed Sawiris.

In a speech following the vote Al-Alaili said the process was legal and the results would be forwarded to the Political Parties Affairs Committee.

“This election is the beginning of a comprehensive reform of the party. From today the board of trustees is back as the guardian of the party’s principles and unity,” said Salah Abul-Fadl, head of the Sawiris faction’s trustees.

The FEP’s disintegration began in March with disputes over plans to elect a new president and 50 members of the Higher Committee.

On 24 March Essam Khalil’s faction organised internal elections and elected Khalil as party head unopposed. Fifty board members were also elected out of 83 candidates.

Hints of problems to come 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 main financial backer. Khalil held a press conference on 31 December during which he announced that the general conference had approved changes to the party’s bylaws and dissolved the board of trustees. The board responded by describing the move as a coup. It issued a statement rejecting the amendments and raised the spectre of more feuding.

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

“The board of trustees completely rejects this illegal coup by people who claim to be working in the interests of the country but who fail to realise the most important challenge now facing Egypt is to complete its democratic transition.”

Sawiris took the dispute to court in January and on 14 February held a rally for loyalists. Hundreds of members who had left the party in recent months attended in a show of support for the board of trustees and in opposition to 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”.

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” to the regime that he is willing to transgress his own 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 parliamentary elections two years ago. The FEP went on to win 65 seats and elected Abed as head of its parliamentary bloc.

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 a 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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