Al-Ghad Party

By Salma Shukrallah, Wednesday 5 May 2010

Al-Ghad Party, whose leader ran for the previous presidential elections and ended up in jail, gained one seat in 2005 parliamentary elections. This year they are planning to boycott

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Al-Ghad Party

Historical background
Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party gained legal standing in 2004. The Political Parties Committee -the quasi-governmental body responsible for licensing political parties- had previously rejected its application to be recognised as a political entity three times. Some viewed Al-Ghad’s eventual admittance as strange at a time when other parties, including the pan-Arab El-Karama (Dignity) and the Islamist-oriented El-Wassat (Centre), were being turned down. The party’s acceptance in 2004 was largedly viewed as part of the government’s plan to show that it was adopting democratisation reform in response to the Bush administration’s policy initiative for the Greater Middle East. A liberal party such as Al-Ghad, which adopted the free market, liberal democracy and gender equality as its main tenants, seemed at the time a good flagship for such reforms. Some even argued that its programme was not very different from that of the liberal El-Wafd Party, and that the government was counterbalancing the Wafd Party with Al-Ghad in the hope of splitting votes.

The tables then turned when Ayman Nour, Al-Ghad Party leader, decided to run for presidential elections in 2005, winning the second highest number of votes (estimated by 12 per cent). In the same year Nour was accused of forging documents related to his candidacy and was sentenced to five years in prison. His imprisonment was widely believed to be politically motivated and campaigns for his release were launched locally and internationally. Mona Makram Ebeid, Al-Ghad Party secretary general at the time, who was supposed to take over Nour’s responsibilities after his imprisonment, announced her resignation. A conflict started between Mousa Mostafa Mousa, an Al-Ghad member, and Nour’s supporters. Mousa met with the party’s higher committee and took the decision of firing Nour from his position as party chairman while isolating several of Nour’s supporters, including his former wife Gamila Ismail. Mousa was elected party chairman by the same committee. The conflict between Mousa and Nour’s supporters has continued ever since. Nour was released from prison on health grounds in 2009. In the latest 2010 party leadership elections, Nour won the highest vote and regained his position as Al-Ghad chairman.
The party’s internal conflict, however, escalated. Its headquarters witnessed violent clashes between supporters of Nour and supporters of Mousa, even resulting in a fire in 2008. The clashes took place when Nour was in prison. Gamila Ismail came to represent the group supporting Nour and spearheaded the fight against Mousa and his supporters while campaigning for her husband’s release from prison.
After Al-Ghad gained members and publicity, locally and internationally, in 2005 during Nour’s campaign for the presidency, the party’s influence diminished following internal conflicts. Nour’s national popularity also decreased after his imprisonment, although he is still popular within the party. Al-Ghad decided to adopt the call to boycott the 2010 parliamentary elections on request of the National Association for Change and the Kifaya (Enough) movement.

Political platform
Al-Ghad is a liberal party. The basic outlines of its platform are support of the free market economy while foregrounding social justice, democracy, women’s empowerment, human rights and freedom of expression. The party’s draft constitution aims to replace the current presidential system with a parliamentary one where the majority party in parliament forms the government. Al-Ghad’s draft constitution proposes to limit the powers of the president and to make them largely symbolic.
Al-Ghad underlines the importance of volunteerism. Mona Makram Ebeid was quoted as explaining the party’s view of social justice as follows: “I believe capitalism should be free but, in order to survive, it needs a social dimension. What we need is production, [and] businessmen like (Banque Misr founder) Talaat Harb. And we need to restore the spirit of volunteerism. Our principal university (Cairo University) was built through the donation of a princess’s jewels. Not all the capitalists of the pre- 1952 era were walking around with a whip. I cannot think of any industrialist [of the time] who did not have a hand in hospitals, schools and other philanthropic work.”

Party profiles
Ayman Nour: Founder of Al-Ghad party. Nour was born in Mansoura in 1964. He graduated from the Faculty of Law of Mansoura University in 1985. He holds a PhD in international law. He began his career as a journalist for the liberal Wafd Party newspaper, later becoming an elected member of the Wafd’s Higher Committee. He became an MP in 1995 and was re-elected in 2000. He was dismissed from Al-Wafd Party in 2001 after clashing with Noaman Gomaa and founded Al-Ghad Party in 2004. He is well known for his presidential candidacy in 2005 and for his imprisonment the same year. Internationally, there was a commonly held belief that Nour might have actually won the presidency after more than 20 years of Mubarak rule. Although locally popular, few people believed that his popularity would lead to a change of national leadership via presidential election. He was released from prison in 2009 and won Al-Ghad’s leadership elections in 2010 to regain his position as head of the party.

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