Nasserist Party embroiled in internal strife

Ekram Ibrahim , Thursday 23 Dec 2010

Parliamentary elections leave the Nasserist Party more divided than ever

Sameh Ashour & Ahmed Hassan
Nasserist Party arch rivals, Sameh Ashour (left) and Ahmed Hassan

The Arab Democratic Nasserist Party finds itself torn between two conflicting camps, raising speculation that the party is headed towards a political wilderness.

Gamal Fahmy, a prominent political writer and jouranlist, with Nasserist leanings, told Ahram Online the Nasserist Party was in the throws of severe political crisis.

The Party, which styles itself as the ideological successor of President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Arab Socialist Union, is split between those labelled as “radicals”, headed by deputy leader Sameh Ashour, and “government friendly”, led by Secretary General Ahmed Hassan.

"While the two groups are fighting politically, their heads are fighting over the leadership of the party," explained Fahmy.

The internal split goes back to the debate on whether or not to boycott the parliamentary elections, held late last November and early December. The radicals in the party, certain that the elections would be rigged, called for a boycott as taking part would only help the ruling party in its efforts to present an image of political pluralism in Egypt.

Hassan's group, according to Fahmy, pushed for participation "hoping that the ruling party would rig the elections in their favour."  Their hopes were in vain; the Nasserist Party did not win a single seat.

While the fight is political, Hassan is combating Ashour over logistics and legality. Ashour was accused of getting a rigged authorization document from Diaa el-Deen Dawood, head of the party, in addition to organizing an illegal meeting last Friday. Accordingly, Hassan has frozen Ashour’s membership as well as that of two of his supporters.

"Ashour has an agenda to damage the Nasserist Party," Mohamed el-Said, secretary of political affairs and a Hassan supporter, told Ahram Online.

There are two expected scenarios of how this conflict could play itself out. The Party may be frozen, with no one willing to compromise, "which is not favoured by the ruling party as it needs to maintain the image of political pluralism," says Fahmy. This is further complicated by next year’s presidential elections.

The second scenario is for members of the party to mediate a compromise between the two factions for the sake of the party's survival.

On the other hand, nothing seems to make a tangible difference in Egypt’s political life. "In Egypt, the ruling party holds the reins of everything and there is no platform for actual political activism," Fahmy told Ahram Online. He explained that if, for example, Ashour's group defeats Hassan and takes away his authority over party finances, the banks would have to consult with State Security for permission to act accordingly. For their part, cliams Fahmy, State Security would tell the bank to ignore the party's request, and support Hassan, said Fahmy, adding, "And the cycle goes on."

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