Generational conflicts shake ElBaradei's Constitution Party

Zeinab El Gundy, Thursday 28 Mar 2013

Following the resignation of Hossam Eissa from the Constitution Party, the party's youth meet with founder ElBaradei to address a growing crisis

Mohamed ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei (Photo: Al-Ahram archive)

Nearly a year ago, many in Egypt had high hopes for the Constitution Party founded by Mohamed ElBaradei and a number of Egyptian political and intellectual figures, including activist Gamila Ismail and world-acclaimed novelist Alaa Al-Aswany.

Through the activities of its youth members across the country the party swiftly became a keystone of the liberal political current, and later a founding member of the National Salvation Front opposition umbrella. Beginning with 10,000 members, the party managed to double that number with member drawn nationwide.

Still, in the past week there have been both doubts and fears about the party and its future following recent internal problems and leadership resignations.

Hossam Eissa, the renowned politician and co-founder of the party, resigned as the head of the steering committee last week, issuing a very strong and angry statement. Eissa praised the liberal party’s youth, asking them to support its founder, Dr ElBaradei, while at the same he spoke of “deceiving faces” in the party, without mentioning names.

"I respect Dr Hossam Eissa very much," Leading member and opposition icon George Ishaq told Ahram Online. "He is an old friend of mine and he stated clearly in his interview a few days ago in Al-Masry Al-Youm that he joined the party willingly and resigned form the party also willingly, refusing to speak about internal matters in public. I respect this and I will not comment on his resignation,"

Ishaq is accused by some party members and observers of being one of the reasons behind Eissa's resignation.

Haitham El-Khatib, a member of the 100 days committee in the party, believes that what is being portrayed in the media is completely at odds with what is really happening in the Constitution Party. El-Khatib was among the youth who met with ElBaradei last week to discuss latest developments in the party.

"The resignation of Dr Hossam Eissa came after differences in opinion on the restructuring of the party but not about our party's policies or its political goals" El-Khatib told Ahram Online, adding that news about the collection of signatures against the leaderships of the party is untrue.

El-Khatib, a 32-year-old activist who believes he is close to the party's youth base, said that the party's problems are generational: "The problem is actually caused by middle level leading figures between the youth and the upper level, and also upper level leading figures themselves, like Dr El-Borai and Dr Eissa, regarding their views on restructuring the party."

El-Khatib revealed that the party has already addressed organisational problems in party branches in Giza, Alexandria and Sharkia governorates. "We have already finished the restructuring of 24 braches all over the country; half of them were already set up before the appointment of Hossam Eissa as the head of the steering committee," he said.

El-Hawary resigns

Following the resignation of Eissa, Ezz El-Din El-Hawary, a member of the 100 days committee in the party, also announced his resignation. Unlike Eissa, he stated direct reasons behind his stepping down.

“There is a group of people controlling the party that believes they will win the majority in parliament and will become ministers,” accusing by name party deputy chairman Ahmed Borai and Emad Abu Ghazi of destroying the party for the sake of “fame” while standing against attempts to restructure the party.

This is not the first crisis in the Constitution Party involving its youth members and older leading figures. A separate crisis occurred in January 2013 when youth members held a sit in inside the party's office, rejecting the influence of certain leading members. The crisis was ended by an agreement reached between Mohamed ElBaradei, the founder of the party, and the youth to hold elections next September. Hossam Eissa, co-founder of the party, was then appointed by ElBaradei as the head of the party's steering committee.

Now, after the resignation of Eissa, a group of the party's youth have spoken with ElBaradei, reaching an agreement that was announced in an official statement released by the party's youth last Friday.

According to that statement, the party's internal elections will be held in June instead of September. "Dr Mohamed ElBaradei has assured that neither he nor any current leadership figure, including Dr Ahmed El-Borai, the vice chairman of the party, and Dr Emad Abu Ghazi, the secretary general of the party, will run in the internal party elections in order to give an opportunity to youth in fair elections and to present a model example for political life in Egypt after their participation in structuring this party after the transitional period," the statement added.

El-Khatib said the agreement reached between the youth and ElBaradei will solve the current problem, but others held another view. "They cannot stop anyone from running in the internal elections; there are clear bylaws in the party to be followed," said George Ishaq, slamming the statement of the party's youth.

From March to June much can happen. Will the party face further problems that could touch the core of its existence, or will it surmount its difficulties and be an example for Egyptian parties of the youth taking control of the party leadership?

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