CAIRO: A flurry of activity has infused Al Ghad opposition party recently to prepare for a March 2 general assembly meeting and elections for a new President.
The party s upcoming presidential elections come one year after the leadership of former ambassador Nagui El Ghatrifi whose presidential term started on Dec. 30, 2006 and ended on Dec. 29, 2007.
El Ghatrifi filled the position of Ayman Nour, the founder Al Ghad, who was sentenced to five years in jail for allegedly forging powers of attorney required to establish the party, a case which his supporters claim is politically motivated – Nour was the main opponent to President Hosni Mubarak during Egypt s first presidential elections held in 2005.
At a meeting, El Ghatrifi said that he will not run for president in the upcoming election. I announced in my opening speech that I will take up the post for only one year. I am happy that we’re establishing democratic rulings inside the party, and that we ll continue with new blood.
El Sayed El Bassiouni El Sayed, assistant general secretary and president of Al Ghad s committee in Alexandria said: The party is going through a transitional period. It is reorganized in all governorates so it can stand on its feet again.
He continued: Although the party has suffered a massive blow after the imprisonment of Dr Ayman Nour, Al Ghad is a young party and all young parties go through phases where they need to reorganizing.
Four candidates, all members of the Higher Committee, have applied for the presidency of Al Ghad before the Feb. 15 deadline: Lawyer Ehab El Khouly, current assistant to the party’s President; engineer Wael Nawara, former general secretariat of the party; Mohammed Badr El Din Abu El Azm, treasurer; and Ahmed Abdel Malek Saqr.
Nawara believes that the party is going through a crisis.
I decided to run to save what s left to be saved, said Nawara, There are internal divisions and personal interests are superseding the interests of the nation and of the party.
Nawara explained that this has resulted in the resignation of important members and more dangerously has led to despair.
This “despair, he elaborated is exacerbated by the fact that Al Ghad is not taking part in the ongoing political dialogue, especially the debate over the current constitutional amendments which will shape the future of political life.
As president, he hopes to rectify this situation and give the party a much higher public profile.
There was anticipation over whether Gamila Ismail, Nour s wife, would run for president until she dismissed the rumor at a press conference held on Thursday.
Ismail is a member of the Higher Committee and the media spokesperson of Al Ghad. She also played a large role is getting the party started and Nour s presidential campaign.
I want to thank all my colleagues who tried to convince me not to run, and all those who tried to convince me to run. I apologize for not running in the elections, said Ismail.
Although Al Ghad party is not as powerful as the ruling National Democratic Party, we here in Al Ghad refuse the succession of power to Gamal Mubarak [President Hosni Mubarak s son] and insist on being a live model of the disapproval of the idea of family-centered parties.
Ismail said that her priorities at the moment were to help release Nour from jail and to run for the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council (the Upper House of Parliament).
Al Ghad will form a committee to organize and to observe the candidates campaigns.
The campaigns will involve posting banners as well as organizing debates in all governorates. Every candidate will get equal space in the party paper, said El Sayed.
They will also invite a number of civil society organizations to monitor the elections and make sure there will be no misconduct.
On another note, the general assembly will soon vote on whether party dissident former judge Morsi El Sheikh will be allowed to reinstate his membership.
The renegade judge had led a splinter group of dissidents which meant that there were two separate parties named Al Ghad with two newspapers and two presidents. The general assembly had decided to dismiss the dissidents but El Sheikh has recently asked to return.
El Sheikh, who had announced earlier his intention to run for president in the upcoming elections has lost his chance since the vote to reinstate him will be held on March 2, two weeks after the application deadline.
El Sheikh, however, refused the claim that he is dismissed in the first place, saying that the Higher Committee had already taken him back. I ve returned to the party without any problems. The Higher Committee has the right to decide on that, and they have.
El Sayed begged to differ. The general assembly is the highest authority in the party. The approval of the Higher Committee hinges on the approval of the General Assembly whose opinion is paramount especially since it is the body that had dismissed him in the first place.
Higher Committee member Salah Hasaballah agreed, saying that the General Assembly has the right to accept or decline his return.