CAIRO: With its leader Ayman Nour still behind bars, Al Ghad party struggles in a turbulent political climate. Its headquarters, once pulsating with hopeful energy, now sits idle.
Diaa Rashwan, political analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies lays the blame for this stagnation on the party itself. Al Ghad party didn’t even begin, so it would end, he told Daily News Egypt, blaming Nour for his party’s destruction. The party wasn’t organized the way a political party should have been.
But Rashwan also points the finger of blame on the government.
Ayman Nour didn t have time to build a proper political party, he explained.
Nour, who was a member of parliament for two consecutive terms, was arrested in January 2005, only three months after he had founded Al Ghad. He was arrested on charges of forging the legal papers required to establish the party. Although the authorities insisted that Nour’s trial was fair and independent, the arrest was seen by many as politically motivated.
In December 2005, Nour was sentenced to five years in prison after challenging the incumbent President Hosni Mubarak and coming second in the country’s first multi-candidate presidential elections.
While awaiting trial, Nour, 41 at the time, fronted a presidential election campaign where he toured Egyptian cities, and held public conferences where he challenged President Mubarak to a debate.
We were hoping Nour would bring something different and fresh to political life in Egypt. This is a repressive government. Political parties in Egypt are in very bad condition, said Rashwan.
Today, almost two years after Nour’s imprisonment, the party’s headquarters look desolate.
A lot of people are very depressed in Al Ghad. They discovered how difficult it is to fight the National Democratic Party, so they fight each other, Ahmed Maher, one member of Al Ghad party, told Daily News Egypt. But even when the party tries to do something, the government fights it fiercely.
It seems that the divide and conquer strategy has worked so far, since there is currently a legal struggle for the party’s presidency.
The infighting began a little after Nour was arrested. The party split into two wings; one calling for scaling up the confrontation with the government, with street protests. This was later called the Ayman Nour wing. The other one advocated a more lenient way of dealing with the government, headed by member Moussa Mostafa Moussa.
The problems escalated in October 2005 when Moussa’s wing held a general assembly that elected him as the new president of Al Ghad. The assembly was criticized by Nour’s supporters who questioned whether those who attended it were real members, thus casting doubt on the authenticity of the elections in the first place.
But Nour’s supporters were not the only ones to criticize Moussa. Morsy El Sheikh – vice chairman of the party before the infighting started and a leading member of Moussa’s group – filed an official complaint to the Public Prosecutor, stating that the general assembly held by Moussa was illegal and supported by members of the policies committee at the National Democratic Party (NDP). El Sheikh alleged that Moussa was promised the presidency of the party by high-profile officials, especially considering that Moussa’s brother was member of the NDP’s policies committee, claims which Moussa strongly ridiculed.
Members of Nour’s wing say that Moussa and his group were egged on by state security to infiltrate and ruin the party internally, distancing the government from the infighting.
These allegations are not true at all. I’ve been in this grind for two years. I spent a lot of my own time and money on this. These rumors are spread by Gamila Ismail (Nour’s wife), Moussa told Daily News Egypt. We’ve wasted a lot of time on this issue. Now that it’s over we can focus our attention on the party.
To complicate matters further, both wings refuse to recognize the other.
The real struggle in the country is between the religious state and a civil state, which we stand by. It’s obvious that there’s a conspiracy to destroy the party since Al Ghad is the alternative, Ehab El Khouly, current president of Nour’s wing, told Daily News Egypt.
Right now there are three legal cases in progress. It will take time before a final verdict is reached by the court, says lawyer Fayez Lawendy, who represents Ehab El Khouly in these cases.
Even though El Khouly says that the outcome of the case is still pending, Moussa says that an early verdict had settled the case in his favor, claiming that he is the rightful president of the party, and is thus entitled to set up his office at the party’s headquarters, to have access to government funding and control over its newspaper.
The final word on the presidency dispute will be at a court hearing on Nov. 10, 2007.
Rashwan believes that the party’s weak structure is the reason why it has collapsed.
A proper political party doesn’t just crumble when its leader is sentenced to prison. Al Ghad was a group of passionate young people who supported Nour for who he was. Al Ghad was not a political party, it was a phenomenon, he explained.
Indeed Nour’s political future is unclear. The fact that he was convicted in the forgery case prohibits him from participating in any political activity, but not from making public appearances.
The prohibition only includes formal nomination or becoming a member of an organized political party. But he can attend public conferences and talk to the media, Amir Salem, Ayman Nour s lawyer, told Daily News Egypt.
Despite the infighting, former ambassador Nagy Al Ghatrifi – also former president of Al Ghad – is optimistic that members of Al Ghad will sort out the problems.
“But, he stresses, “if we can t be democratic amongst ourselves, how can we convince people with democracy.