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What is happening inside Egypt’s biggest political party? - Daily News Egypt

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What is happening inside Egypt’s biggest political party?

How the conflict between the chairperson and board of trustees of the Free Egyptians Party resulted in the separation into two “camps”

The headquarters of the Free Egyptians Party (FEP) in Downtown Cairo witnessed on Friday elections for high council members, including chairperson and secretary general of the party, after the conflict between chairperson Essam Khalil and the board of trustees.

In February, FEP issued a statement announcing that founder and member of the board of trustees Naguib Sawiris was expelled from the party, resulting in the emergence of two “camps”.

One of the two camps is following the board of trustees and staying in the Downtown headquarters, and the other one is following chairperson Essam Khalil, who moved the headquarters to Salah Salem Street.

The two camps are referred to by local media as “Sawiris’ camp” and “Khalil’s camp” respectively.

Sawiris’ camp

Friday’s elections resulted in the election of Mahmoud El-Alayly as chairperson of the party, who told Daily News Egypt that about 1,200 members participated in the elections, but more importantly, the elections were carried out “in a lawful manner and in accordance with the party’s bylaws, which were approved by the party’s Affairs Committee,” explaining that the main objective of the elections was to distribute the roles within the party.

“The reason of the conflict was the attempt to revolt against the policies and ideologies of the party, which respects freedom of expression and organisation, separation of powers, and other liberal ideologies that were not respected by some personnel in the party,” El-Alayly explained. Furthermore, businessman and founder of the Free Egyptians Party, Naguib Sawiris, said in a televised interview on privately-owned channel ON TV that the conflict started when members of parliament (MPs) were not following the party’s liberal stance when voting on draft laws such as the Civil Service or NGOs laws.

Sawiris also condemned the party’s choice for the head of the Human Rights Council in the parliament, adding, “we cannot have a head for such committee who was accused of torture before.”

Last October, the party’s administration appointed Alaa Abed as head of the Human Rights Council in the parliament. Abed was accused by activists of being involved in a torture incident.

Khalil’s camp

On the other hand, Nasr Al-Affas, secretary general of the party, told Daily News Egypt that the reason of the conflict was amending the bylaws of the party rather than following the party’s liberal stances in the parliament.

“Article 59 of the bylaws appointed the board of trustees as guardians of the party,” he explained. The general assembly held in December 2016 ruled that the article would be amended, which resulted in an aggressive reaction by Sawiris, according to Al-Affas, claiming that Sawiris publicly insulted members of the party.

Al-Affas also questioned the legitimacy of Friday’s elections, stating that they do not abide by the laws regulating the work of political parties in Egypt.

“We took all the legal measures and notified the prosecutor general. We are still waiting for the procedures of the verdict,” he explained.

Replying to the claims that they were not following the party’s liberal and democratic stance, Al-Affas said, “Sawiris himself does not know what democracy or liberalism are,” criticising Sawiris’ statements during the Friday elections and claiming he threatened to seek revenge from the other camp.

The future of the party

Deputy head of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Amr Hisham Rabie told DNE that both conflicting parties made mistakes. He also claimed that the government made a mistake by supporting the separation, further explaining that the conflict could be described as a “conflict between the state and Sawiris.”

“Anyone can start a new party. He [Sawiris] can start a new party. He only regrets the 60 MPs who would no longer belong to his party,” Rabies said, explaining the possible end to the conflict.

However, Sawiris had earlier stated in a televised interview that he would not leave the party.

Al-Affas said that a bloc of 60 MPs was supporting Khalil’s camp, and the other camp only had the support of two MPs.

Meanwhile, Al-Alayly said in a previous interview with DNE that “a number of MPs are supporting the demands of the party’s board of trustees to restore the party… The case is we have 20 MPs who believe in the principles of the party.”

Both conflicting parties filed lawsuits against each other. The conflict remains unsettled until a legal verdict is issued.

The FEP was founded in 2011 by Naguib Sawiris. In 2015, the party had the biggest number of representatives in the parliament—65—followed by the Nation’s Future Party with 53 MPs.

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