Future of Homeland Party head Ashraf Rashad has revealed that 150 independent MPs who are members of the For the Sake of Egypt Association have decided to join the party. The new intake will quadruple the party’s representation in parliament.
“We have the same principles and the same platform, and so we decided to merge into a strong political coalition that can compete in elections and field a presidential candidate in 2022,” said Rashad.
For the Sake of Egypt was formed late last year to mobilise support for the re-election of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi..
Rashad also announced that 50 MPs from the Free Egyptians Party had resigned and would join Future of Homeland’s ranks.
They include Alaa Abed, former parliamentary spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party and the current head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee and Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, head of the Social Solidarity Committee.
Businessman MP Mohamed Al-Masoud told reporters last week that half of the Free Egyptian Party’s MPs in parliament had switched alliances.
“The party has not performed well. It should have worked to build a popular base in the Egyptian street but the current leadership has not done so and there has been little cooperation among MPs in parliament,” said Al-Masoud.
He added the Future of Homeland and the Free Egyptians parties may share a liberal economic platform “but while the first is active and secure, the second is plagued by chronic internal rifts and poor performance”.
Founded in April 2011 by Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the Free Egyptians won 65 seats in the 2015 parliamentary election, making it the largest party.
Party leader Essam Khalil denies the party is facing serious internal rifts or a mass resignation of its MPs.
“No MP has resigned from the party so far. I only hear about these resignations in the media, just like everyone else,” Khalil said in a TV interview.
Last week Khalil appointed MP Ayman Abul-Ela as the party’s parliamentary spokesperson. Following his dismissal as the Free Egyptians parliamentary bloc leader Abed publicly announced he was resigning from the party to join the ranks of the Future of Homeland.
The Free Egyptians effectively split into two factions earlier this year, one led by party founder Sawiris and the other by current leader Khalil. The division occurred when Khalil moved to change the party’s internal bylaws and disband its board of trustees, which includes Sawiris.
Sawiris reacted by suing Khalil, accusing him of orchestrating “a coup” against party leaders and turning the Free Egyptians into a government mouthpiece.
“They have eliminated the party’s role as an opposition force and turned it into a government lackey,” said Sawiris. Via Twitter he said he is “sad” about what was happening to the party. “The best interest of Egypt lies in having a truly independent political party,” said the billionaire businessman.
Abed, the Free Egyptians’ former parliamentary spokesperson, told reporters he decided to resign in protest at the party’s poor performance.
Abed predicted the merging of For the Sake of Egypt with Future of Homeland will change the political landscape of the country.
“Up to 50 MPs affiliated with the Free Egyptians have decided to switch alliances,” claimed Abed. “They have decided to join the Future of Homeland Party and make it the leading political force in Egypt.”
Rashad also revealed Hossam Al-Kholi, a former deputy head of the Wafd Party, had been named secretary-general of the Future of Homeland Party. The news came after Al-Kholi’s announcement last week that he was resigning from the Wafd following a series of internal rifts.
“We want Future of Homeland to be Egypt’s majority party,” said Al-Khouli.
Al-Sisi has repeatedly urged political parties with similar platforms to merge.
“We strongly believe in President Al-Sisi’s initiative and moved quickly to convince more than 150 independent MPs to join our ranks,” said Rashad.
The Future of Homeland Party, founded in 2015, won 57 seats in the parliamentary election. Now, says Future of Homeland Spokesman Atef Nasser, the party has increased its MPs to more than 250.
“So far 150 independent MPs, and between 40 and 50 members of the Free Egyptians and Wafd parties, have joined us,” said Nasser.
Future of Homeland’s success in attracting MPs seems to have wrong-footed the majority Support Egypt parliamentary coalition which announced a month ago that it was planning to turn itself into a licensed political party.
Some legislative experts question the legality of the decision by independent and party-based MPs to join Future of Homeland’s ranks.
“When MPs switch their political or partisan alliances they face the threat of losing their seats,” says Abdel-Moneim Al-Oleimi, an independent MP and a long-term member of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
“Article 6 of the House of Representatives law states that elected MPs cannot change their political designation once elected. Independent MPs theoretically lose their parliamentary membership if they decide to join a political party following their election, and the same is true of an MP elected on a party ticket who suddenly becomes an independent.”
He added, “Article 110 of the 2014 constitution also states that ‘an elected MP will be stripped of parliamentary membership if he/she loses trust and esteem or if he/she ceases to meet any of the membership conditions based on which he/she was elected.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 31 May 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly with headline: Shifting political alliances