Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Who’s next?

Egypt’s engineers have withdrawn confidence from their Islamist-controlled syndicate council. Who will be next, asks Reem Leila

Engineers' Syndicate
Al-Ahram Weekly

Following the lead of the country’s Doctors Syndicate, Egypt’s engineers held an emergency general assembly meeting on 17 January to withdraw confidence from their syndicate’s Muslim Brotherhood chairman Maged Kholousi and council members. The confidence withdrawal procedures took place via closed voting.
On last Friday noon, thousands of engineers headed to the Cairo Stadium, where the emergency general assembly meeting was being held, in a bid to end the domination of the Muslim Brotherhood over their syndicate’s affairs.
The turnout was unprecedented, and the confidence vote drew a particularly strong response from the syndicate’s independence current, a coalition that opposes the Muslim Brotherhood.
More than 16,000 engineers attended the general assembly meeting to vote. Out of the valid 15,773 votes, 8,887 engineers, representing 56 per cent of the attendees, voted to withdraw confidence from the Brotherhood-controlled syndicate council.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood were also present at the meeting, and they carried images of the yellow four-finger salute representing the deaths of hundreds of Brotherhood supporters at the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in last August while at the same time chanting slogans opposing military rule.
Non-Muslim Brotherhood members of the syndicate have accused the recently toppled board of exploiting the syndicate’s resources in supporting the Brotherhood and of involving the syndicate in politics.
The board was accused of working for the Islamist group, which was officially designated a terrorist organisation by the government last December.
The move against the board started when a group of 176 engineers calling themselves the “Tamarod [Rebel] of Egypt’s Engineers” asked Kholousi to call an emergency meeting last August, but their request was declined.
According to the law, if the syndicate head declines to hold such a meeting for 30 days complaints should be referred to the syndicate’s general coordinator, in this case Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Moteleb.
A complaint was filed with Abdel-Moteleb about alleged financial violations committed by the Muslim Brotherhood board members of the syndicate.
Abdel-Moteleb then referred the complaint to Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat, accusing the council of financial impropriety. According to the complaint, money from the syndicate’s pension fund had been used for non-syndicate members injured in the Brotherhood-led sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square last August.
Sherif Hani, a syndicate member and professor at Cairo University, said that the engineers no longer trusted the Muslim Brotherhood. “It has done nothing either for the syndicate or for the engineers themselves. We were watching our resources being looted. We couldn’t stand still for ever, and so we decided to act,” he said.
Kholousi was elected syndicate chairman in 2011, but since then the “Muslim Brotherhood has ruined the country,” Hani said. “The syndicate had no elected board and was under judicial sequestration for 17 years. We were looking for someone responsible to improve the status of our syndicate, instead of benefiting from its resources as Kholousi has done,” he added.
“Dismantling the board of directors of the syndicate is the first step towards correcting its path after its being dominated by Brotherhood figures,” he added.
Amer Sabri, deputy secretary-general of the former syndicate board, said the board would appeal against the result of the voting. The conflict was “political and financial,” he said, lamenting what he called “executive interference” in the syndicate’s work.
“Syndicate bylaws provide legal accountability. There is no need for a vote of no confidence,” he said.
Sabri said that there would now be greater corruption as a result of the toppling of former president Mohamed Morsi. “The unity between the national political forces and the army will not reform the bad situation Egypt is currently enduring,” he claimed.
Pro-Muslim Brotherhood members urged their colleagues to head to Cairo Stadium to support Kholousi and the current board, and the gathering witnessed chants and counter-chants from Brotherhood supporters and their opponents.
Egypt’s other professional syndicates have also been removing Muslim Brotherhood members from their ranks through new elections and votes of no confidence. Last March, members of the Press Syndicate protested against the then chairman Mamdouh Al-Wali, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, and Diaa Rashwan replaced Al-Wali as chairman a few months later.
In December 2013, members of the Doctors Syndicate withdrew their confidence from the syndicate’s pro-Muslim Brotherhood board and elected a new board comprising independents. The Muslim Brotherhood candidates were defeated in the polls.
The Teachers Syndicate is expected to follow suit, with teachers across the country being expected to vote in midterm elections at the syndicate. The elections are scheduled for mid-February when independent teachers are hoping to defeat candidates supported by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The teachers are also discussing the formation of an independent current that would act as a watchdog for the syndicate’s performance as has happened at the Doctors Syndicate. Activists say they want to improve teachers’ working conditions, and it is for this reason that they are running in the elections.

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