Thursday April 21, 2005

Resignations and recriminations

Foreign support comes back to haunt Al Ghad

By Magdy Samaan

Two leading members of Al Ghad Party resigned last week, apparently over the issue of foreign support for the party, casting doubt on its ability to keep its disparate members united.

Rafaat Khaled, a deputy vice president of Al Ghad, and Mahmoud Al Shazli, a member of the People's Assembly, are the most prominent members of the party to have publicly split so far.

Khaled declined to go into detail about his departure, saying only that "agreements from the founding of the party have not been implemented." Meanwhile Al Shazli says that his resignation came after his concerns over foreign funding were ignored. First, he asked the party to issue a statement rejecting any American support, whether financial or otherwise, which he says would harm the party. He then asked that some members of the party who are also members of the Ibn Khaldoun Center (a recent recipient of U.S. funding) to resign either from the party or from Ibn Khaldoun. Finally, he claims he wanted to learn the source of Al Ghad Party's funding to be able to defend it from accusations.

For his part, Nour has downplayed the departures, saying that he hadn’t received resignations from either of them and in fact had dismissed them for spreading lies about the party.

“They weren’t able to handle Al Ghad’s opposition to the regime,” he told Cairo. “They thought Al Ghad would be like other parties that have a limit on their opposition." He added that the resignations would not affect the party because they receive many new members every day.

Wael Nawara, another deputy vice president, suggested that the departures had to do with their opposition to the party’s liberal philosophy. “Some members have reservations about its liberal policies, like a Coptic woman being secretary general of the party,” he said. "Membership in any party isn't a Catholic marriage and it's normal that some people resign, especially in the beginning of the party when they discover that the party policies are different from what they had thought. This doesn't harm them or the party.”

Sources close to Al Shazli, who joined Al Ghad after having differences with Al Wafd Party, said that he didn't expect to be joining such a controversial party.

Despite party leaders’ efforts to downplay them, the resignations are seen by some Ghad members to reflect a crisis in Al Ghad Party, which contains many conflicting viewpoints among its members. Some fear further escalation with the government while others are conservative and oppose the party’s liberal approach. The tensions reached the surface during the period Nour was detained several months ago.

When Nour left prison, many thought he would move against vice presidents Ragab Hilal Hemeida and Moussa Moustafa Moussa, who had acted against his directives during his detention, and had been the center of controversy and friction within the party. However, for the time being it appears Nour has chosen not to confront them.

Instead, since his release from prison, some in the party say Nour has spent too much time launching Al Ghad's eponymous newspaper, and neglected the internal politics of the party.

Nour returned to his usual activities last week when he began what he called the Door Knock campaign, going to districts in Egypt to meet the residents and speak to people in the streets. He started on 13 April with Al Gamaliya in Islamic Cairo, not far from where a bomb recently went off and killed four, and walked along Al Muizz Lidin Allah Street, meeting with people in the stores and cafes—reportedly to a warm welcome.

"Al Ghad is founded on the margin of the liberal attitude in Egypt. It has no history or real liberal figures. Rather, it gathers underneath a big tent people from different attitudes. They unite around Ayman Nour's personality, not a central idea," said Dia Rashwan, a researcher at Al Ahram Center For Strategic Studies. He expects that there will be additional resignations in the future.

Copyright © 2005 Cairo Magazine


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