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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Wafd wins six seats but insists on zero representation

Against predictions giving it 40-50 seats in the coming parliament, Egypt's oldest political party, the Wafd, was able to secure only six seats, and says it will let go of those as well

Ekram Ibrahim , Tuesday 7 Dec 2010
Wafd Party
Sayed El-Badawi, president of Wafd Party. (Photo by Nasser Nouri)
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In line with the party's decision last Wednesday to pull out of theelections, the Wafd's supreme body announced it will suspend candidates who participated in the election runoffs on Sunday. “The Wafd is not going to have any parliamentary representation,” party Secretary General, Mounir Fakhry AbdelNour, told Ahram Online.

After the first round of elections, Safir Nour and Mosaad El-Meligy emerged as the only victorious Wafd candidates, providing the party with just two seats. A week later, during the runoff round, the party won four additional seats which went to Atef El-Ashmouny, Tareq Sebaq, Mohamed El-Malki in Cairo and Magda Neweshi in Ismailia.

Initially the party expected it would win more than 20 seats, but members were shocked when only two seats were secured in the first round. In a reaction to what they argued was "widespread rigging" in favour of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) candidates, the party decided it would pull out of the elections. Abdallah El-Senawy, editor of the opposition newspaper El-Arabi, told Ahram Online “they (the Wafd) decided to exact revenge on NDP by officially withdrawing from the elections." The Wafd's decision coincided with the Muslim Brotherhood's announcement on the same day to also pull out for the same reasons.

According to a Wafd source who spoke to Ahram Online on condition of anonymity, the NDP appears to have "pushed" some Wafd candidates to participate in the second round in spite of the opposition party's decision to pull out.

"The NDP needed to prove to the international and the local audience that political pluralism exists in Egypt, through ensuring the presence of some  opposition MPs in the parliament,” El-Sinawy said.

NDP's maneuvering aside, the Wafd has long been suffering from internal schisms. Before the elections only half of its members were in favor of participating in the polls. However, after the first round ended with only two out of 132 candidates winning seats, more members joined the call for a boycott Yet, splits persisted and only one member conformed to the party's decision to withdraw. Other candidates went ahead with their electoral campaigns.

Consequently, it appears personal interests played a significant role ,leading some Wafd party members to participate in the runoffs despite party leader Sayed El-Badawi's announcement of the party's decision to pull out of the elections.

A case in point is business tycoon Rami Lakah, one of the party's more controversial figures. Lakah had fled Egypt for ten years due to unpaid loans owed to Egyptian banks. He returned earlier this year. “It is clear that Lakah recognizes his need of the legal protection the Member of Parliament gets,”  El-Sinawy told Ahram Online.

Surprisingly, Wafd hotshots did not win any seats in the elections. Lakah and Fouad Badrawy were among those who failed to secure seats in the second round, while Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour and Mona Makram Ebeid failed in the first round. Some analysts attribute this to government intervention. “They have let only the acceptable opposition figures get into the parliament,” says El-Sinawy, suggesting the government allowed the electoral success of those who are not outspoken Wafd figures.

In addition, some analysts claim that the manner in which the Wafd leadership announced its withdrawal made room for internal splits “If the party had not announced in its official withdrawal statement that the winners could run as independent without losing party membership, many wouldn’t have made this trail,” El-Sinawy says. Consequently, many Wafd candidates participated in the second round, hoping to win seats and stay in the party.

Analysts are now waiting to see if the Wafd will indeed suspend all candidates who participated in the second round, or whether political interests will dictate their decision, again.

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