Internal elections held by Sawiris faction as fissures within Free Egyptians Party continue

Ahram Online , Friday 5 May 2017

Naguib Sawiris
Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris (Photo: Reuters)

Votes are being counted in a parallel set of internal elections within the Free Egyptians Party, organisers told Al-Ahram Arabic website on Friday evening.

Mahmoud El-Alaily was elected president of the party by acclamation, and Ahmed Samer was likewise acclaimed head of the secretariat.

The independent committee supervising and monitoring the elections is set to announce the 50 successful candidates who were elected to the party’s high committee, out of 192 nominees.

The liberal party was founded soon after the 2011 uprising which toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak by telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris. The party holds the largest number of parliamentary seats of any single political party.

Discord between members started to surface last year, with some members infuriated by what they deemed as the party toeing the government's line. Others believed Sawiris was over-critical of the authorities.

The current showdown dates back to December 2016 when party members, headed by current chair Essam Khalil, voted to dissolve the party’s board of trustees after amendments were made to its bylaws.

Matters worsened following the sacking of Sawiris after he failed to show up for questioning over accusations of libel against party members.

The board refused to accept the decision, calling it “a coup,” and accusing the political bureau of “hijacking" the party away from its founders. Sawiris has taken the matter to court.

Subsequent to that, on 24 March, Essam Khalil organised internal elections, and was re-elected head by acclamation. He was the only candidate.

Fifty board members were also elected out of 83 candidates.

Sawiris commented on the results via his official Twitter account at the time, writing in Arabic: “Four hundred of 100,000 founding members of the Free Egyptians Party elect a chairman through acclamation, in an illegal election…Farce. #Judas."

Under the slogan of "Free Again", the Sawiris faction subsequently announced it had a quorum in the general assembly needed to start internal elections.

The elections were held on Friday at the old headquarters of the party in downtown Cairo, which is no longer being used by the Essam Khalil faction, and were attended by Sawiris.

In his speech during the general assembly on Friday, Sawiris stressed "the willingness of the Egyptian people to achieve democracy, and that was my motive to be present today.

Sawiris has also warned Essam Khalil and his supporters that "you fell out with a guy from Upper Egypt, who will not give up on what he is entitled to,” Al-Ahram reported.

Many other political parties which were founded following the 2011 uprising have been hit by internal differences or mass resignations, including the Constitution Party, founded by Nobel laureate and former vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, whose former head Mohamed Abul Ghar resigned after internal dissension, citing a failure to "heal the rift" within the party. 


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