Emad Abdel Ghaffour, head of the Islamist Salafi Nour (Light) Party (Photo: Reuters)
In a major development in the ongoing crisis within Egypt's Salafist Nour Party, the party's supreme committee withdrew confidence from its leader Emad Abdel-Ghafour on Wednesday, expelling him from the party and appointing El-Sayid Mostafa Hussein Khalifa in his place. Abdel Ghafour, for his part, has reportedly retaliated by calling for the dismissal of supreme committee members.
At a meeting late Tuesday, the supreme committee announced that it had withdrawn confidence from Abdel-Ghafour. The supreme committee, the party's highest authority after its General Assembly, has reportedly informed the parties committee of the Shura Council – the parliament's upper house – of its decision.
El-Sayid Mostafa Hussein Khalifa once served as Nour Party vice president, as well as head of Nour's bloc in the People's Assembly, the lower house of Egypt's parliament.
A copy of the supreme committee's decision to relieve Abdel-Ghafour of his duties – published by the Nour Party's official website – mentioned that he was sacked because of his "recent appointment as assistant to Egyptian President" Mohamed Morsi.
Despite that the Nour Party's official site confirmed that Abdel-Ghafour had been replaced, the party's official Twitter account – @Alnourpartyeg – appeared to continue to recognise him as party leader till press time.
According to Abdel-Ghafour's official Twitter account, the party leader decided to expel members of the party's supreme committee after learning of their links with former members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party. Among those expelled from the party by Abdel-Ghafour is former Nour MP Ashraf Thabet.
Abdel-Ghafour's Twitter account also stated that Nader Bakkar, official Nour Party spokesman, was being replaced by Mohamed Nour and Yosri Hammad.
Both Bakkar and Thabet are accused of holding talks with former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, according to a Nour Party statement issued on Wednesday afternoon.
Bakkar and Thabet were among 12 supreme committee members who signed the decision to fire Abdel-Ghafour as the Nour Party chairman. Hammad and four other members of the committee failed to attend the meeting and gave no excuses for their absence, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news portal.
This comes in the wake of a fierce disagreement early this month between Nour Party Chairman Emadeddin Abdel-Ghafour, when the latter decided to postpone ongoing internal party elections until after Egypt's yet-to-be-scheduled parliamentary polls.
His decision came after the party reportedly received a large number of complaints from its provincial branches regarding the first round of party elections.
The Supreme Committee challenged the decision by ordering polling to continue on schedule, before calling for Abdel-Ghafour's dismissal and replacement.
The Shura Council's parties committee, say observers, may issue a decision to freeze the troubled party until the two contradictory positions are resolved.
The Salafist Nour Party was founded shortly after last year's Tahrir Square uprising that led to the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, whose regime had persecuted Islamist activists for decades.
The party rose to prominence in last winter's parliamentary elections, when it secured the second largest number of seats in the People's Assembly – the lower house of Egypt's parliament – after the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.
Both parties together accounted for almost three quarters of the seats in the assembly, which was dissolved in June by order of Egypt's interim military rulers. The move followed a controversial ruling by Egypt's High Constitutional Court, which found that the regulations governing last winter's legislative polls to be unconstitutional.
The Nour Party's current difficulties, meanwhile, have raised doubts about its ability to replicate its earlier electoral performance. The party has nevertheless announced its intention to run for 100 per cent of the seats in the People's Assembly.
A date has yet to be set for the upcoming parliamentary polls, but they will likely take place later this year following the drafting of Egypt's new constitution.