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A disintegrating coalition: Rifts re-emerge after Dostour Party’s default leadership election
 
 
Khaled Dawoud
 

Rifts have re-emerged within the Dostour Party only days after the party announced that journalist and former party spokesperson Khaled Dawoud had been elected president by default, in light of the absence of other nominations for the position.

The party’s Wise Men Committee issued a statement in which it rejected Dawoud’s leadership, nullifying the election results and referring Dawoud and the Together We Can electoral list to investigation.

The announcement is a direct affront to the party’s higher committee which oversaw the election process and issued a call for presidential nominations from internal party lists. While the Together We Can list submitted its nomination of Dawoud, no other factions within the party did not submit candidates during the nomination process and expressed doubts that the elections would be conducted in adherence to the party’s internal bylaws.

The party did not realize that you need to present clear political stances to people, and not act like a youth or student movement. 

While the conflict primarily revolves around disagreements concerning the party’s internal bylaws outlining which entity is in charge of moderating internal elections, it seems to have deeper origins. Since its inception in 2012, the party has included a wide range of influential political figures on the grounds of promoting the principles of the January 25 revolution, but the party’s ideological affiliation remained unclear.

Abdallah Bahar, a former party member previously told Mada Masr that the only condition for the admission of new members was allegiance to the party’s founder Mohamed ElBaradei, rather than political ideology. He claimed that the party’s ideological confusion was epitomised by the decision not to declare an official position on the 2014 constitutional referendum. “The party did not realize that you need to present clear political stances to people and not act like a youth or student movement,” he said. “The party stood and watched.”

Running unopposed in the recent elections, Dawoud was declared the party’s president, and other members of the list took up places among the party’s leadership.

Immediately following the announcement, the Wise Men Committee issued a statement in which it denied that the party had held elections.

“The central Wise Men Committee denies news being circulated on websites and social media regarding the election of a new leadership. Any attempts of the sort are a way to seize control of the party in an illegitimate manner,” the statement asserts.

The Wise Men Committee has called for an internal party election to be held by the end of March, in accord with a decision it issued on January 6. The committee has submitted a report documenting its view on the recent developments to the Political Parties Affairs Committee, a judicial body tasked with overseeing the activity of political parties in Egypt.

The Dostour Party is a youthful party that includes enough different ideas and currents to hold competitive elections. It is very inappropriate for the party’s leadership to be chosen by default

In response to the Wise Men Committee’s statement, the party’s official Facebook page announced that a number of the the party’s founding members, including former party president Sayed al-Masry, support Dawoud’s presidency.

Mohamed Moussa, a member of the party’s political bureau who opposes Dawoud’s election, claims that a default election contradicts the Dostour Party’s principles.

“The Dostour Party is a youthful party that includes enough different ideas and currents to hold competitive elections. It is very inappropriate for the party’s leadership to be chosen by default,” Moussa says.

Dawoud, however, asserts that the Wise Men Committee, which was formed in 2014, is meant to settle potential disputes inside the party and oversee the elections of the party’s governorate committees. He says that the committee has no authority over the election of the party’s leadership.

“This is the essence of the problem. The Wise Men Committee believes it is in charge of carrying out the elections at all levels. The committee is working on further expanding its power, which reflects its lack of attention to the unity of the party. This committee should act wisely, but it is not,” Dawoud says.

In his eyes, the committee is responsible for the party’s decline, a state he describes as a relative death. “That’s why the party’s higher committee decided to initiate the election process. There has been no such thing as the Dostour Party for the last two years.”

The Dostour Party was founded in May 2012 by former Vice President for International Relations Mohamed ElBaradei and Shokry Fouad and was intended to be an organization for revolutionary youth. ElBaradei served as the party’s president until his resignation in August 2013, when he was succeeded by a former ambassador Sayed Kassem.

In August 2015, the party was thrown into a state of disarray when party president Hala Shukrallah resigned. She had taken the helm in February 2014, at a time when a number of internal disputes were brewing within the party. Members were divided on several key issues, including how to conduct elections within the party.

Internal disputes also arose within the party’s ranks regarding its official position on the 2014 constitutional referendum, Egypt’s presidential election later that year and the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Against the backdrop of these disputes, Shukrallah’s resignation threw the party into a crisis of succession, and it was nearly torn apart by competing fronts in the process of choosing its next leader.

The Political Parties Affairs Committee will decide on the fate of the Dostour Party’s leadership, according to Moussa, adding that all sides must respect the decision.

“We should not have resolved our conflicts this way,” Moussa says. “It was supposed to be done internally.”

However, Dawoud has disregarded the influence of the Political Parties Affairs Committee. “The Wise Men Committee can go to whatever entity they want,” he states. “For us, we will work on the ground instead.”

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Mai Shams El-Din