Egypt's Constitution Party conflicts roll on as youth take over main HQ

Zeinab El Gundy, Tuesday 2 Apr 2013

A group of the liberal party's young members took over the main offices in Cairo and plan to stage a sit-in, demanding a change in leadership and early party elections

Constitution party
Mohamed ElBaradei founder Constitution party (Photo: Reuters)

The internal conflicts facing the liberal Constitution Party escalated on Monday evening when, according to news reports, a group of young members stormed the party’s main headquarters in downtown Cairo and occupied it.

The group of protesting members announced that their takeover of the headquarters had been legal, and that the building had been handed over legally by party co-founder Ahmed Darag in the presence of the police.

The group also announced that they will start a sit-in at the headquarters until the leadership of the party are dismissed and the group’s demands are met.

The main demands of the dissenting youth members is that a steering committee be created, made up of 9 members from among the 10,000 members who are designated as co-founders of the party, in an election that is supervised by the judiciary and the NGOs.  The rest of the demands are related to the hierarchy of the party and the role of the steering committee.

"Why does the party have to hold internal elections to appoint a steering committee when it is going to have internal elections anyway in June 2013?" leading member Haitham El-Khatib told Ahram Online, adding that he feared there was an attempt to destroy the Constitution Party from inside.

El-Khatib was among a group of members that reached an agreement between the youth and party leader Mohamed ElBaradei to move internal elections forward to June instead of September, and to ensure that the current generation of  leaders abstain from running for any posts.

Speaking to Ahram’s Arabic website, Emad Abu Ghazi, the secretary-general of the party, denounced the incident at the party’s headquarters, and said that protesters had demanded his dismissal.

“They do not represent all the youth members of the Constitution Party. The youth members are greater in number than this group," said Abu Ghazi, adding that their position was not representative of all the party’s members.

"Managing internal conflicts in parties is not done in this way and what this group has done, occupying public property owned by all the party's members and stealing documents related to the party, is against the law as well as the party's bylaws."   

On the party’s official Facebook page, there was an announcement that "the protesters at the general secretariat headquarters were among the co-founders of the party" and "their problem was being solved." The official page announced that it will not publish any statements from any group involved in the current conflict in order to "preserve the unity of the party.”

The party suffered an internal crisis when Hossam Eissa, its co-founder and the head of the steering committee appointed by ElBaradei, resigned in March declaring that he could not continue due to "lies by some unnamed members.” 

"I want to express my respect and appreciation to the youth of the Constitution Party and their efforts to construct the party and stand against the forgery attempts by some to keep the leading chairs inside the party forever," said Eissa in a statement following his resignation.

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