The Wafd is an historic party with deep ties to our country's national struggle, but it made a serious mistake in the 2010 elections campaign. It misread the popularity of its candidates which was unrealistically inflated, and believed that a greater presence in the media would translate into more popularity for its candidates. In reality, Wafd candidates were not very popular, as we found out in our own public opinion surveys in the districts where Wafd was contesting seats.
Since 2005, the NDP conducted ten opinion surveys which covered the bulk of the country's constituencies. The results showed that first, it is very difficult for any candidate to win a seat in parliament without a 50 per cent popularity rating before the elections, and secondly, any candidate with a popularity rating of 20-30 per cent would find it very difficult to win in the first round. If we look at the Wafd candidates in the 2010 election in terms of their popularity ratings ahead of the poll, we find that four of them had a popularity rating beyond 20 per cent in pre-election surveys. The most popular enjoyed 39 per cent support among the people. The other candidates' popularity ranged between 25.4, 32.9 and 34.8 per cent respectively. The rest of the candidates had popularity ratings between 10 and 18 per cent, and only 12 candidates were popular at rates raging between five and 9.9 per cent. Meanwhile, five per cent of candidates were popular at between 2-4.9 per cent. Some 15 candidates were between 1-1.9 per cent. The remaining 130 candidates received less than 1 per cent.
Perhaps, Wafd Party Chairman Sayed El-Badawi did not intend to field as many weak candidates, but he was confronted by a large number of hopeful Wafd candidates, whose numbers rose further as Wafd's presence in the media gained in prominence during summer of 2010. This made it very difficult to reject their candidacy, because otherwhise he would have seemed to be blocking party supporters.
The Wafd claims it decided to withdraw after the first round, because their candidates due to violations in the electoral process. To this, I respond with three main points. The first question I would pose to Wafd is: Who is the Wafd candidate, and in which district was he supposed to win in the first round and lost because of violations? We estimated that there would be 7 to 8 Wafd winners, mostly in the second round. They lost because of the way in which the party and its "star" candidates ran the election. Take the following examples:
• Rami Lakah, the former MP from Daher, is a politician who has contested the elections before. We expected him to run a strong campaign in the district of Daher against Khaled El-Assiouti, which would have probably been a slim victory for El-Assiouti. But he surprised us by deciding to run in the district of Shubra instead of Daher, two weeks before the elections. How can any candidate think that he could win a seat in a district he has only known for two weeks?
• Famous football player and popular sports anchor Taher Abu Zeid was the Wafd candidate in the district of El-Sahel. He was first spotted there on 8 October, 2010, which is only 50 days before the election. Is it logical that he could beat our candidate Ali Radwan, the former Shura representative for the district until 1998, and then MP for the same district durinng 2000-2005?
• Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, the former Wafd MP and a highly respected politician, whom we believe played a distinguished role in previsous parliaments, told a talk show on 1 November, 2010, -- only two days before candidate registration began - that he does not know in which district you will be running.
• The Wafd candidate in Bab El-She'riya, actress Samira Ahmed, had a double agenda during the election. She campaigned in the district at the last minute in order to generate film footage for a new television serial she is producing under the title 'A Lady in Parliament', directed by Rabab Hassan. In fact, on one of her campaign tours she was accompanied by the renowned actor Mahmoud Yasseen and actress Rania Farid Shawki, her co-stars in the serial. They filmed several scenes while she was campaigning. We appreciate all these stars and they may be very popular in the area of Bab El-She'riya, but can elections really be run like this? Meanwhile, our candidate Saad Abdel-Khalek, a member of the Bar Association who was born, bred and works in the district, had been preparing for these elections for nearly four years.
If running in an election and winning were that easy, why would any MP bother working for his district for years in preparation for elections? Why would any party in the world bother supporting its candidates for months and years ahead of an election, if campaigning in the last month was enough? If elections were that easy, the NDP's General Secretariat would just decide to dissolve the party and save itself a lot of effort and long working hours.
Second point, the Wafd Party claims it lost in the first round because of violations in the electoral process. But actually if we look at the figures we find no basis for the claim that the Wafd actually lost in 2010. Wafd representation in the People's Assembly over the past 20 years, including this year, has been more or less constant. In 1995, the Wafd won 6 seats; in 2000, they got five seats; in 2005, they had six seats; in 2010, their representation remains steady at six seats. Accordingly, the Wafd Party did not lose in the 2010 elections.
Some may say that Wafd had a better chance this year because, as some of its leader said before the elections, they were able to field a large number of candidates. In reality, there was no big change in the number of Wafd candidates this year. The number of Wafd candidates in the 2010 election was 195, which is not much higher than the 150 candidates the Wafd ran in the 2005 election, also winning only 6 seats.
Third point, El-Badawi said that his decision to withdraw from the reruns was because of violations in the first round. It is ironic, however, that 48 hours before this announcement and after polls closed in the first round, El-Badawi went on the record in all the media as saying: "Any violations would not justify withdrawing". It is very apparent that violations were not the main reason why the party withdrew, since no new development happened between the first and second statements by the party chairman.
The reason behind the withdrawal is the immense pressure to which El-Badawi was exposed after the first round by losing Wafd candidates. We greatly appreciate El-Badawi's leadership of the Wafd Party; he came to power in the wafd after 8 years of tremendous inter-party turbulence, and he truly began to realign ranks. But he entered these elections amid in-party conflict and among bickering cliques, which is understandable after a long period of instability.
The results of the first round confirmed this, and put El-Badawi in a difficult position as he was confronted by a large group of party members who lost the election. In an angry reaction to their loss, they demanded that no party candidate should participate in the reruns -- although the stronger Wafd candidates are the ones who would have taken part in the reruns. Accordingly, withdrawal was the only decision El-Badawi could take, even if he did not personally agree with it. The Wafd chairman is known for his meticuluous calculations, and he knows well that the six seats which his party won in the reruns is a victory for the Wafd.
Ahmed Ezz is the Organizational Secretary of the National Democratic Party, and the man responsible for the ruling party's sweeping win in the 2010 parliamentary elections.