Wafd Party Chairman Al-Sayed Al-Badawi has called for a meeting of the party’s general assembly on 30 March to discuss amendments to the party’s bylaws and select a chairman before Al-Badawi’s second four-year term in office ends in June. The move, which Al-Badawi announced on 21 February, is opposed by many party leaders.
Nominations for the chairman’s seat opened on 27 February and will close on 8 March. Possible candidates include Wafd Party secretary-general and head of its parliamentary bloc Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, deputy chairman Hossam Al-Kholi, Supreme Committee member Hani Sarieddin and head of the party’s Media Committee Yasser Hassan.
Al-Badawi has also decreed that a seven-member committee, assigned with supervising the whole electoral process, be formed.
Yet on 10 February, during a meeting of the party’s Supreme Committee, 34 of the 38 members in attendance voted to postpone the discussion of any amendments to party bylaws until after the election of a new chairman.
It is illogical to try and amend party bylaws on the same day as chairmanship elections, says Supreme Committee member Abdel-Alim Dawoud. “Not only will it be difficult to vote for a new bylaw in a tense electoral climate, the process will deepen divisions among Wafdists,” warned Dawoud.
The party has been divided over the issue since amending the bylaw was first suggested in November. Party rifts widened last week when proponents of the changes mobilised against the Supreme Committee and assistant chairman Mohamed Ibrahim called for an emergency general assembly to endorse the amendments and vote on the dissolution of the Supreme Committee.
Ibrahim says he has 509 signatures of Wafdists who back his call for an emergency assembly. The signatories’ names, he added, have been forwarded to Al-Badawi.
Ibrahim had earlier suspended his party membership in protest at the Supreme Committee’s 10 February decision.
“What is happening will lead to endless struggles within the party’s ranks,” warned Abu Shoka in a statement in which he said he had asked Al-Badawi to hand him the list of signatures for verification.
Al-Badawi, meanwhile, has denied receiving any list of members calling for the Supreme Committee to be dissolved while his supporters say the call to hold the general assembly was made by Al-Badawi in his capacity as chairman and not on the basis of any petition.
“We are not against the idea of amending bylaws. It is the timing we object to. And we think all Wafdists should have the opportunity to discuss any amendments and ensure they serve the interests of the party,” says Dawoud.
Supreme Committee member Tarek Sabbak questions the wisdom of a chairman who is due to leave his post within weeks seeking to introduce such far-reaching changes. It is an argument echoed by many Wafdists who complain the changes will marginalise the role of both the next chairman and the Supreme Committee.
The amendments being proposed would see the secretary-general, deputy chairman and treasurer elected by the general assembly rather than the Supreme Committee and reduce the number of Supreme Committee members appointed by the party chairman from 10 to five.
“In trying to push these amendments Al-Badawi wants to tie the hands of the next chairman,” says Sabbak.
Dawoud goes even further. Al-Badawi’s latest decrees “are nothing but an attempt to exact revenge on the Wafd and its Supreme Committee for refusing to take part in the presidential elections,” he claimed in a statement.
As candidate after candidate fell by the wayside, Al-Badawi announced his intention to stand in the presidential election. On 27 January the Supreme Committee rejected Al-Badawi’s bid to become a candidate and reiterated the party’s backing for Al-Sisi.
“The Supreme Committee basically foiled Al-Badawi’s plans to remain as chairman,” says Dawoud.
Under the party’s bylaws the election of the party’s chairman is postponed for a year should he decide to stand as a presidential candidate.
* This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly