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Ghad Al-Thawra Party
EEW, Saturday 3 Dec 2011
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Ayman Nour
Ayman Nour, former member of the Egyptian Parliament and presidential candidate (photo: Reuters)

 

The liberal Ghad Al-Thawra (‘The Revolution’s Tomorrow’) Party is most commonly associated with its founder, Ayman Nour, who famously ran against then incumbent President Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential election. The party was originally licensed in 2004 under the name Al-Ghad Party, but it was sidelined from the political scene during Mubarak’s last years in office due to internal splits and legal battles. It reemerged again as a licensed political party on 9 October 2011 under the name Ghad Al-Thawra­ Party (hereafter referred to as the Ghad Party).

Before the Revolution

Under the name “Al-Ghad” (Hizb Al-Ghad), the party made its first debut on the political scene in 2004 when it received legal recognition from the state-controlled licensing committee.

Before forming the Ghad, founder Ayman Nour was a prominent member of Egypt’s oldest liberal party Al-Wafd, and had been one of the party’s most outspoken members of parliament since he was first elected to its lower house in 1995.

As a contributor to Al-Wafd’s daily during the late 1980s, a young Nour authored a set of controversial reports about police torture against detainees and suspects. These reports were at a heart of a memorable clash between Al-Wafd Party’s representatives, and the notorious Minister of Interior Zaki Badr in a 1987 parliamentary session. Badr charged that the photos documenting police torture of prisoners that Nour ran in Al-Wafd’s newspaper were fabricated, and displayed a video clip showing what he claimed to be Ayman Nour confessing to these allegations. Badr’s subsequent remarks, which featured some personal attacks against the party’s leaders, prompted an attempt by Wafidst Member of Parliament Talaat Raslan to physically assault the minister of interior while he was still at the podium.

Nour left Al-Wafd Party in 2001 due to differences with then party chief Noaman Gomaa, who four years later would face-off with Nour during the 2005 presidential election race. Other prominent Wafidsts who defected to the Ghad include Mona Makram Ebeid, who served as Ghad’s secretary-general until she left the party in 2005 in the wake of internal splits.

The legalization of Ghad in 2004 raised many questions in minds of observers, who wondered why the state-controlled Political Parties Committee would award Ghad a license—the first that the state had issued in decades—unless the party was secretly cooperatingwith the Mubarak regime. Deepening these suspicions was the fact that this period witnessed the emergence of many “opposition” political parties that were loyal to the regime and that benefited from its largesse. These parties were pejoratively dubbed “paper parties” during the Mubarak era, in reference to the insignificance of their role.

These suspicions were quickly sidelined after Ayman Nour clashed with the state in 2005, a turbulent year for the Ghad Party. In January of that year the state grounded a court case against Nour for allegedly forging signatures on Ghad’s application for party license. Purportedly due to U.S. government pressure, Egyptian authorities released Nour on bail weeks later, and in September that same year he ran in Egypt’s first multiparty election. During the lead-up to the vote Nour’s criticism of the incumbent president was unusually sharp at a time when personally attacking the president in public forums was the exception rather than the norm. As expected, Mubarak won the presidential poll by a landslide, while Nour picked up seven percent of the vote.

 

A few months after the poll, an Egyptian court convicted Nour on forgery charges and sentenced him to five years in prison, a conviction that many interpreted as the Mubarak regime’s response to all the jabs that Nour took at the president throughout the election season. Egyptian authorities eventually released Nour in February 2009 on grounds that his health was deteriorating, though some assume that the decision to free the Ghad Party leader was once again largely based on U.S. pressure. Nour’s case received a respectable amount of coverage in mainstream U.S. media outlets, which viewed Nour’s imprisonment as the embodiment of the Mubarak regime’s defiance of Western pressures to undertake democratic reforms. It was widely reported in the media in 2008 that Nour wrote an open letter to then-U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama from prison, weeks before his election to office. In the letter, Nour asked Obama that Washington cease its support to Arab dictators. The document stirred controversy in Egypt as many critics accused Nour of appealing to the United States to intervene in domestic Egyptian affairs. Nour’s then-wife and Ghad Party leader Gamila Ismail insisted that the letter was written to Obama in his capacity as a U.S. senator and not a presidential candidate, and that the “letter” was in essence an article rather than a personal plea.

 

After the downfall of Mubarak in 2011, Nour had asked that the forgery case in which he was convicted be reopened, claiming that he had sufficient evidence to overturn the ruling and prove his innocence. The court, however, upheld his conviction last October.

 

Nour’s imprisonment in December 2005 was not the only blow that Ghad Party had suffered that year. That same year a struggle over the party’s leadership came into being with Mousa Mostafa Mousa and Ragab Hemeida on one side, and Ayman Nour and his supporters on the other. This led Ghad to splinter into two factions: one headed by Mousa and another by Nour’s (now former) wife Gamila Ismail. Ismail’s faction held that Mousa and Hemeida were acting at the directives of Mubarak’s security apparatus, which was supposedly using its allies inside the Ghad to purge the party from opposition elements. Mousa won a seat in the parliament’s upper house in 2010, a victory that Nour described as the regime’s token of appreciation to Mousa for undermining the Ghad Party, implicitly implying that the ruling party used illegal means to “facilitate” Mousa’s victory. Similarly, Nour accused Hemeida of collaborating with the regime’s security apparatus, while Hemeida countered that Nour had dealings with state security services prior to his 2005 arrest. Hemeida is currently standing trial on charges of plotting to murder peaceful protesters during the 2011 eighteen-day uprising, or what was famously dubbed as the “battle of the camel.”

 

The internal split inside the Ghad Party persisted for years and kept it in stagnation. After a court ruled that Mousa was the party’s legitimate leader in 2007, the state-controlled political parties committee handed over the rights to the Ghad’s headquarters in downtown Cairo to Mousa. This lead to a physical clash between Mousa’s supporters and those of Ayman Nour and Gamila Ismail in November 2008, which ultimately resulted in the torching down of the party’s office. Although less than a year later a court reversed that previous ruling and handed over Ismail’s faction control over the party’s leadership, the political parties committee refused to execute the court’s directives. This ruling was annulled in July 2010 after another court recognized Mousa once again as the party’s leader.

 

After years of political immobility due to its founder’s imprisonment, legal battles and internal strike, the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 was a game changer for Nour’s Ghad Party. Nour, who took part in the protests that eventually turned into eighteen-day uprising that ended with Mubarak’s resignation, emerged as one of the major contenders poised to contest the presidency. However, it is unclear how his forgery conviction will affect his presidential fortunes, since it could disqualify him from running for that office. While legally Mousa is still in charge of the original “Al-Ghad Party” that received license in 2004, Nour and his supporters have regrouped to form their own party “Ghad Al-Thawra” (the Revolution’s Tomorrw), which received official license last October.

Party Structure

In charge of running the party is a Supreme Council consisting of the party chair, the chair’s deputies, and representatives from the General Assembly. The Council is elected by the General Assembly, which is the party’s highest authority and is tasked with setting the party’s platform and charter. The General Assembly consists of all founding party members, and representatives from regional committees. Regional committees are responsible for selecting the party’s nominees for parliamentary and syndicate elections.

While the party structure provides an appearance of internal party democracy, over the years Nour’s rivals inside the Ghad have complained about what they view as his autocratic style of leadership. Former Ghad secretary-general Mona Makram Ebeid was once quotedas saying: “[Ayman Nour]...does everything. He’s the head of the party. He’s editor-in-chief [of party paper Al-Ghad]. He’s a member of parliament. He’s the head of the board. He doesn’t listen to anyone.”

Parliamentary Elections

In the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Ghad Party is fielding fifteencandidates (thirteen for the lower house and two for the upper) through the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, a Muslim Brotherhood dominated electoral coalition. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which is fielding over five hundred candidates, topsover sixty percent of the Alliance’s forty-six electoral lists, and is scheduled to contest over seventy percent of single-winner seats. The Ghad Party’s candidates are mostly concentrated in Nile Delta governorates, with the exception two candidates in Assuit, and one in Sohag. There are 688 parliamentary seats in total that are up for election (498 in the lower house and 190 in the upper house). The legal framework governing the elections gives SCAF the right to appoint ten of the 508 members ofthe lower house, and eighty of the 270 members of the upper house.

 

Prominent Ghad figure Gamila Ismail will not be running through the Democratic Alliance’s candidate rosters, but rather as an independent candidate. She is contesting a single-winner race in the Cairo district of Qasr Al-Nil.

Relationship with Other Political Parties

The Ghad Party is a member of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, along with ten other political parties, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP, the nationalist Al-Karama, and the Islamist-leaning Labor Party. The Alliance once brought together over forty political parties but witnessed mass defections due to what many groups described as the FJP’s control over decision making and dominance over the coalition’s joint candidate rosters. The continued participation of Al-Ghad in the Democratic Alliance is significant, because it is one of the few liberal parties inside the coalition with some name recognition. Many believe that Muslim Brotherhood is keen on keeping small non-Islamist parties inside its coalition in order to portray its electoral bid as the product of a broad national consensus rather than an attempt to single-handedly dominate the electoral field.

Observers had expected that the Ghad would follow the thirty some parties that defected from the coalition in early October after realizing that the Brotherhood would leave little room on the electoral rosters for fellow members of coalition. The Ghad remained, nevertheless, deciding to settle for only two percent of all the parliamentary seats available for election. Ayman Nour justified the decision to stick with the Alliance despite his party’s negligible share in its candidate rosters by saying that the Ghad chose to look beyond seat shares in order to help build national consensus around a single electoral list. Given the Brotherhood’s domineering role in the Alliance and the withdrawal of most of its politically significant members, many observers are unconvinced that the coalition truly reflects the wide “national consensus” it professes to represent.

Media Image and Controversies

Since its founding, the Ghad has struggled in presenting itself as more than just “Ayman Nour’s party.” The party’s efforts to prove itself a significant political force with a meaningful following took a huge blow this year after its decision to contest only a handful of seats in the 2011/2012 parliamentary elections. The party’s limited participation in the elections reinforced the perception that Ghad has negligible following and is little more than Ayman Nour’s political arm.

Stances on Salient Issues

Form of Government

The Ghad Party calls for a parliamentary system with well-defined limits on presidential authority. It further believes in decentralized government.

Social Justice

The Ghad Party professes a commitment to social justice without heavy-handed state intervention. It advocates the implementation of a progressive tax system and tax exemption for low-income households. The party calls for unemployment benefits and supports right to free education for all citizens. Its platform states that social security programs should be managed through agencies that are monitored but not run by the state.

Economic Policy

The party supports only limited state intervention in the economy to protect private property, support public education and healthcare and protect against monopolistic practices. The Ghad pledges to promote foreign investments, and small and medium enterprises. It calls for lifting laws criminalizing financial bankruptcy. The party’s platform calls for dismantling the ministries of justice and information, and for the privatization of state-owned media outlets.

Religion and State

The party’s official platform does not offer a detailed vision for the role of religion in public life, though it calls for lifting all forms of religious discrimination in state policy.

Party leader Ayman Nour expressed support for Article 2 of the constitution, which designates Islam as the main source of legislation, but said he rejects calls for establishing an “Islamic state.”

Military Trials

The party condemns the practice of referring civilians to military courts. It has been reported that Ayman Nour’s son Nour is an active member of the “No to Military Trials” campaign.

The Ghad also calls for ending the state of emergency and releasing all political prisoners. It pledges to reform the ministry of interior and place it under civilian leadership.

Strike Law and Labor Movements

The party supports the worker’s right to strike and rejects the law banning that practice. The Ghad Party was one of the participants in the 30 September Tahrir Square demonstration dubbed “Reclaiming the Revolution,” which called for ending this law.

Foreign Relations

The Ghad is not in favor of abrogating Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, but party leader Nour said that he does not rule out the possibility of amending the accord in order for Egyptian forces to gain full sovereignty over Sinai, including the right to deploy its forces in the Peninsula. He has said he supports Palestinians’ right to a state. Nour welcomes relations with the United States so long as long as they do not compromise the independence of Egyptian decision-making.

Nour’s relations with Washington have been the subject of close public scrutiny due to U.S. government efforts to pressure Egyptian authorities to release Nour from prison between 2005 and 2009. Rivals have criticized Nour for being “too close” to the United States.

Key Figures

Ayman Nour

Ayman Nour is the Ghad Party chair. Born in the city of Mansoura in 1964, Nour began his political career in Al-Wafd Party, where he started out as a journalist in the party’s daily in 1984. He served as director of the party’s Center for Political and Strategic Studies from 1990 to 1995. He was first elected to the parliament’s lower house in 1995 and was re-elected in 2000. Due to disagreements with then-Wafdist leader Noaman Gomaa, he left the party and went on to form the Ghad Party in 2005. Nour is most known for his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2005 against then-incumbent Hosni Mubarak. Nour was sentenced for five years in prison in 2005 on charges of fraud, and was released in February 2009, presumably due to U.S. government pressure. His imprisonment was largely seen as politically motivated due to his vocal criticism of the Mubarak regime. In October 2011, a court decision upheld his 2005 conviction after Nour’s request for a retrial. The decision may disqualify Nour from contesting the presidential election, which he has been reportedly entertaining.





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