A week after being appointed organisational secretary of the dispute-riddled, year-old Constitution Party, political activist Gamila Ismail has managed to alleviate mounting tensions within the party – but only to some extent.
The party announced that the organisation secretariat that Ismail took charge of early this month will be tasked with drawing up a special committee to oversee internal party elections in June 2013. No sooner had she been installed in the high-ranking position did she begin to create more peaceful environment.
The ex-wife of former presidential candidate Ayman Nour took up the job upon the recommendation of party founder Mohamed ElBaradei.
She was appointed while some young protesting members were staging a sit-in at the party's main headquarters in downtown Cairo. In their "belief in democracy," the protesting group wants to replace the temporary ElBaradei-appointed steering committee (boasting full authorities to make decisions for and run the party) with an elected committee ahead of the official internal elections.
The protesters suggested that the new committee be made up of nine members from the 10,000 designated as co-founders, whom protesters accuse ElBaradei of overlooking when he formed the incumbent steering committee. They have also been calling for elections for the party's secretariat heads across the nation to replace the current appointed ones, again stressing the importance of democracy.
These demands, however, were widely debated as partisan law and regulations stipulate that the first party leadership should be installed before the maiden party polls are officially announced and held to bring elected leaders.
Stressing this perspective, the newly-appointed Ismail coaxed protesters last week into ending their sit-in, which started late in March. "She reasoned with the demonstrators; she's a figure whom everyone likes and respects and she has no problems with anyone. And, of course, she is a great speaker," Haitham El-Khatib, a member of the Constitution Party's founding committee, told Ahram Online.
"She held a host of consecutive meetings with them to end this stalemate. Some of these meetings lasted until dawn… She persuaded them that any decisions concerning the party's structure should be made through the party’s legal committee."
The Constitution Party's elections were brought forward to June instead of September to appease the protesting youth, whom El-Khatib labels as "enthusiastic." He added that "they are trying to push forward their demands and their understanding of democracy, regardless of the law and regulations."
"Appointing – and not electing – leaders was the situation with all the post-revolution parties, such as the Freedom and Justice Party [of the Muslim Brotherhood] and the [Salafist] Nour Party, who all went through the same procedures," he explains.
Calling for elected – not appointed – leaders created splits and disputes within the party "because those who wanted elections and not direct appointments tried to force their views on the secretariats that opted for the latter option," El-Khatib added: "In the eyes of many it's pointless, given that the elections are taking part in less than two months."
Disagreements over the leadership structure first surfaced in January, when a number of youth demanded Emad Abu-Ghazi and Sameh Makram Ebied be relieved of their duties as secretary general and organisational secretary (the position Gamila Ismail fills now), respectively. Protesters were frustrated by what they described as the two party officials' "underperformance."
The protesters called on ElBaradei to appoint a new head for the steering committee; Hossam Eissa, the renowned politician and co-founder of the party who has been strongly supporting the youth's demand for an elected leadership. ElBaradei acquiesced to their demand only to see Eissa resign in March.
Upon his resignation, Eissa praised the liberal party's "youth," asking them to support ElBaradei. He also spoke of "deceiving faces" in the party, without mentioning names.
A founding member of the Constitution Part, Ezz Eddin El-Hawary, likewise tendered his resignation, accusing party deputy chairman Ahmed Borai and secretary general Abu-Ghazi of destroying the party for the sake of "fame," while obstructing attempts to restructure the party in a "democratic" manner.
The protesting youth inside the party have continuously been calling for the resignation of both Borai and Abu-Ghazi. Succumbing to the pressure, Abu-Ghazi handed in his resignation, but the steering committee did not accept it – a decision that prompted protesters to threaten to escalate their action.
Up until press time, Abu-Ghazi has remained adamant to step down.
"When he resigned as culture minister during the military rule, he was asked to continue his tenure in the caretaker government, but he refused to," Alfred Raouf, a young member of the Constitution Party, said to Ahram Online.
"However, he intends to take part in the party's elections in June and he knows that if he was elected no one would protest against him," he elaborated. "I think he is a decent man; if some people are against his policies, they should ask for investigation. But it is not acceptable to have struggles based on personal issues."
To put an end to disputes once and for all, Gamila Ismail set a six-week "roadmap" to completely clear the air ahead of the elections.
The roadmap, which has been approved by the party's steering committee, includes forming a dispute resolution committee that shall include under its umbrella the resigned Hossam Eissa as well as other leading figures.