The official stance of Egypt’s largest opposition party, the Wafd Party, on yesterday's 'Day of Anger' protests was only announced in a press conference late Tuesday night. Early that morning, the party's leaders permitted only unofficial participation in the demonstrations, but by the early afternoon – as the protests escalated and grew in size – they finally allowed their members to officially join.
At his late-night statement to the press, Wafd Party chair El-Sayyid El-Badawi called for dissolving the current parliament and creating a “saviour government” which would work to put together a new system and that would solve the problems currently devastating citizens across the country.
Yet, El-Badawi's announcement had come too late.
“El-Badawi has made this announcement because there seemed to be hope that the protest had succeeded, and because the Wafd youth and the citizens had put pressure on him,” Essam Shiha, member of the Wafd Party's high board, told Ahram Online.
Another factor encouraging the Wafd leadership to join in on the popular demonstrations and call for the government's dissolution is the fact that the Wafd had suffered a serious blow during the recent elections, winning only two seats – a stark failure compared to its five-member representation in the previous parliament. This electoral failure made it necessary for the party to find a way to reinstate its position as a formidable opposition.
Surprisingly, El-Badawi's assertion that his announcement reflected the party's official position was, according to Shiha, not in line with the position of the party's executive board.
In contrast to El-Badawi's announcement, the Wafd's reformist wing has decided to call on the government to open a national dialogue with political opposition groups, asking for a peaceful transfer of power. These contradictions between the two party lines have led Mahmoud Abaza, the former president of the party, to announce that he will deliver a statement of his own later today, according to Shiha.
Yesterday was the first time that the Wafd Party engaged in such large collective protests. The party's youth have called on the leadership to take part in the protests, and El-Badawi met with them yesterday to hear their demands. “They were then given permission to protest on an individual basis – not under the party name,” Shiha told Ahram Online.
Accordingly, dozens went to protest in different places around Cairo, while an even greater number of Wafd members engaged in protests outside Cairo, in Suez, Mahalla, Mansoura and Domiatta.
Moreover, in the middle of the day, prominent Wafd figures began to join the crowds in Tahrir Square, where protesters gathered. Ramy Lakah, a prominent businessman and member of the Wafd Party, was there. Shiha, Ahmed El-Sokary and Abdel Aziz El-Nahas joined the protest at 10:30 PM, brining food for Wafd protester in Tahrir. “It seemed like Hyde Park in London, then suddenly police fired tear gas at the protesters and things went very badly,” Shiha said.
Nevertheless, El-Badawi's incredibly belated announcement has unleashed speculations regarding the party’s relation with the regime. “Everything in the Wafd Party depends on its relation with the state,” Amr Hashim, researcher at Ahram Strategic Center told Ahram Online.