The Al-Wafd Party enters a new dark phase after clashes with the Wafd Reform Front, led by secretary general of the party Fouad Badrawi and Party Chairman El-Sayed El-Badawi.
The crisis brought back the memories of the events in 2007, which witnessed a direct clash between former party heads Mahmoud Abaza and Noaman Gomaa,leading to a confrontation between the supporters of each of them, which ended with 23 journalists shot and the burning of the party headquarters.
The Wafd Reform Front accuses the party head of stealing from Al-Wafd and causing Administrative and financial corruption, manipulating general assembly records, writing off more than 750 general assembly members, and adding more than 1,200 names to the records, the identities of whom nobody knows.
The crisis reached its peak when the conflict was moved into court rooms; some reform front members filed reports accusing El-Badawi of manipulating and squandering the party’s money, and the front held a public conference in the Sharqeya governorate against the party head, who in turn suspended eight members of the supreme body of the party and referred them to the Investigation Commission inside Al-Wafd, and filed a libel and defamation suit against some of them.
Last Sunday, Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat received a report from some members of the Al-Wafd Supreme Body, in which they demanded investigation into the party head on accusations of financial violations and squandering of party and newspaper funds at a value of EGP 93m, in addition to debts worth EGP 10m for signing a contract with Media Line Company by direct order.
Those who filed the report requested from the Prosecutor General to prevent El-Badawi from dispensing party funds pending the completion of investigations, and to place the books of the meetings of the supreme body of the party under reservation.
These events raise questions as to whether there will be supreme body elections, or if they will be suspended by court order, and why Al-Wafd witnesses such violent battles whenever the time for internal elections approaches.
El-Badawi said, in an interview with Daily News Egypt, that what is happening is not new; what is new is the media’s handling of events. Further, the conflict is exacerbated due to the fact that the parties in the crisis this time are the leaders in the supreme authority of the party, and they succeeded in pulling Al-Wafd into a media battle, taking advantage of the importance, history, and power of Al-Wafd and the public interest in its internal politics.
What are the real reasons behind the battle this time, when you are not in electoral competition against anyone?
I am an elected president of the party, while the next elections scheduled for next Friday are supreme body elections. Those who call themselves the Reform Front thought I was supporting a list and they know their chances of winning are slim and that my support to any list will result in their removal from the body, because Wafdists have confidence in their elected party head.
Did the Reform Front, led by Fouad Badrawi, hold a meeting in Sharqeya to withdraw confidence from you?
As soon as I found out about this meeting, I called for an emergency meeting of the supreme body of Al-Wafd, and in a precedent that never happened before, the whole body was present for two hours and it issued a statement to suspend the membership of eight members and referred them to investigation. I then held a joint meeting with the supreme body, as well as heads of the general committees and youth and women’s committees, who signed a statement confirming their confidence in the Al-Wafd’s party head.
The reaction was prompt, but could it be perceived as quite aggressive?
On the contrary; I have taken decisions in accordance with Al-Wafd’s constitution and I tried to allow those who were referred to investigation to enter the party headquarters, but my wish was met with extreme rejections from the Wafdists
Where do the party youth stand with regards to this crisis?
First, let me affirm that this is a media crisis and it does not exist in reality and within the party. The aim of the media aggravation is to stop the supreme body elections. Even the members who were referred to investigation filed a suit to stop the elections, and the youth union took a supporting side.
Is there a concern that 2007’s events will recur?
Sadly, the reasons do not differ in both crises. The one behind the current crisis is the former head of the party who lost the elections against me, when he felt that my procedures to protect the party will disrupt his power within the party. This was after Mahmoud Ali was dismissed from the party, who was one of the strongest arms of the party. Ali was dismissed because we found out that he is the head of a civil society organisation that receives funding from the US under the party’s name.
Do you mean Mahmoud Abaza?
Yes, that’s him. Abaza was one of the most powerful men in the party, and a complaint has been issued against him.
I tried to prevent his dismissal because I was sure of the consequences. However, the supreme body and the person who filed the complaint insisted on dismissing him. In the end, what I expected happened.
Do you fear that the scenario of burning of Al-Wafd’s headquarters will be repeated?
Noman Gomaa did not burn Al-Wafd. He only broke into the headquarters with his supporters, and one of them shot and injured 23 journalists, but he did not burn it. I already knew what was going to happen, but in reality 27 governorates announced their support for us and the party’s management.
That leaves one governorate. Which is it?
It is Marsa Matrouh. It does not support us because of other issues.
How did they not protest when you referred them to investigation?
The supreme body referred them to investigation and they refused to be present in front of the committee once. When they refuse for the second time, the issue will be escalated to the supreme body which will be elected to look into this.
Were the eight dismissed members your competitors in the former elections?
Yes, they were, except for Foad Badrawy. Sadly, some people do not accept political defeat in the democratic framework. By this I do not mean any of my competitors in the elections; on the contrary, I do give them leading positions, but they all joined Foad Badrawy in the 2014 elections and led a battle without any of the morals of political implications.
I left everything behind and cared for the interest of the party. At that time the supreme body insisted on dismissing Foad Badrawy, but I requested that they re-appoint him after he came to us and defended himself. The supreme body did re-appoint him, but he led yet another battle.
Wasn’t there an attempt for reconciliation by Mostafa El-Taweel, honorary head of the party?
A reconciliation between two sides goes this way: we have a regulation, which is the constitution of the party, and the regulation states that if 20 members of the body signed an agreement to withdraw confidence, the issue is presented to the general assembly. If the assembly decides to withdraw confidence, the head is dismissed from the party. If it refused, the supreme body is dissolved because they failed to collect 20 signatures, so where is their power?
How is it that they accuse you of taking control of the party?
These people are protecting their personal interests. When I first was head of the party, I activated one of the most important articles in my programme, which is to ban using the party’s name in favour of non-governmental organisations. Even Badrawy sent an official statement to Mahmoud Abaza, when he was head of the party, accusing him of supporting 12 organisations that receive foreign funding. These organisations do not separate the party’s work from their civil work, and they formed groups parallel to the party. One of them was even the head of a party within the organisation he managed. He had a coordinator in every governorate, who had coordinators in cities and villages. They all were known to be paid fixed salaries and using the name of the party in their work.
Mahmoud Abaza considers these people his own, and the group that stands against me are Abaza’s group.
In that case, what is the role of Foad Badrawy?
Foad Badrawy is creating a front because of his dream to be head of the party like his grandfather. However, he did not succeed twice.
Have they not accused you of being the reason behind the deterioration of the party’s position politically?
I have taken some decisions that they together could not take. I refused a deal with the National Democratic Party to take 25 seats in the parliament in 2010, and I withdrew from the elections when I became head of the party. We had 12,000 members, where half of them were either dead or withdrew to join other parties. We now have 300,000 members.
They need to know that the situation is different now than the one in 2006, and the scenario of Noman Gomaa will not happen again.
Will the current events will affect your situation in the parliamentary elections?
They are aware of this and they tried to blackmail me with this statement. However, following the elections of the supreme authority, we will prepare again for the next parliamentary elections.
Will there be parliamentary elections soon?
I believe so, yes. From my own experience in the political field and my analyses, I believe it will be soon.
Who will gain the majority if elections take place?
The majority is for the single seats, as per the law.
Are you aware that your use of the expression “political slavery market” was tough and caused disruption in the society?
I am aware of that, but what is going on now never happened in our parliamentary history. We got used to buying votes. Legislators incriminated this act and strengthened the penalty. However, they never thought that candidates themselves could be bought. That is why I did not find a description that fits the cruelty of the situation except to describe it as a “political slavery market ”.
The general public suffers from political ambivalence. Do you expect it to head to the ballot boxes?
The Egyptian citizen does not care about council or candidate or parties. He just cares about earning a living, stability and security.
Do you think that this ambivalence adversely affected President Al-Sisi’s popularity?
I do not agree with you; his popularity did not get affected among citizens. It may have been affected among elites and the youth, for their dreams, but it is still a long way.
How is it that the president did not choose his advisors yet, when this sometimes creates a disturbance in some decisions?
The president will not choose his advisors until he is assured that they will represent the institution of the presidency, and maybe he did not find the suitable cadres yet.
Does Egypt not offer these cadres already
Of course, we have patriotic cadres qualified to offer help. Perhaps he is still looking for them. The governors’ reshuffle is a proof that he did not find them. The president, in one of his meetings, asked: “Where do I find people? If you complain about the police; police is from people. If you complain of corruption, corruption is also are from people. Whoever you talk about, all of them are from Egypt.”
The Egyptian people have suffered from many issues because of revolutions. These will definitely be cured, and the values that we were used to will be restored. We must stand for it, and the media has to help us overcome that.
Does the media not support the presidency?
Support here is not on purpose, but it is pushed by fear for the homeland, because there is a faction waiting for our mistakes to use them for sabotage. The media has a patriotic role until Egypt reaches safe shores.