CAIRO: In a conference held Sunday by the opposition Al-Wafd party, its new leader Al-Sayed Al-Badawi outlined stringent positions against the inheritance of power and called for guarantees for free elections.
In a departure from the more measured language under his predecessor Mahmoud Abaza, Al-Badawi made it clear that party was completely opposed to the inheritance of power in Egypt — from President to Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal as widely believed— and called for viable guarantees in October’s parliamentary elections.
In his speech, Al-Badawi said, “Egypt is bigger than being inherited and the Egyptian people are not a heritage or property,” echoing a similar saying by the nationalist leader Ahmed Orabi which drew cheers from the crowd.
Al-Wafd’s official spokesman Mohamed Sherzy told Daily News Egypt that Al-Badawi’s comments and new position were supported by the entire party membership, and echoed a nationwide sentiment.
“Of course, Al-Sayed Al-Badawi speaks for the entire party, not upon a personal opinion. Moreover, not only is Al-Wafd backing him up, but also most of the Egyptians who are against having their country being turned into a monarchy,” he said.
Amongst the 3,000 attendees to the conference —titled “No Free Elections Without Guarantees” — were opposition stalwarts such as Democratic Front Party head Osama Ghazali Harb and coordinator of the National Association for Change Hassan Nafaa, as well as representatives for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Brotherhood MP Hussein Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt, “The Muslim Brotherhood extend their hands out to any political groups that want change and we are hopeful that Al-Wafd will play a bigger role amongst the political opposition.”
“We wish them to have a very effective role and we hope the political opposition in Egypt get together to put pressure on the regime for the change we are seeking,” Ibrahim added.
However, despite the shift to a more stringent discourse regarding Egypt’s political future, some opposition figures still maintain doubts about the true intentions of Al-Wafd, a party invigorated by the manner in which its new head assumed the party leadership.
“Al-Wafd’s role seems more about image rather than having any effectiveness,” Karama Party MP Saad Aboud told Daily News Egypt, “I’m not sure their political will is all-together there.”
“I don’t want to attack anyone but the regime has reached a point where it is picking its opposition and I think Al-Wafd has been chosen as the main opposition for the upcoming parliamentary cycle,” Aboud added.
Many opposition figures have been calling for constitutional change in Egypt, especially the articles that govern the eligibility of presidential candidates and judicial oversight on elections.
Spearheading this call for amendments has been former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei who has launched a signature campaign calling for constitutional change, recently backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, Sherzy felt that Al-Wafd — due to its history at the center of political opposition in Egypt in the past century — remained a vibrant opposition force and would in fact lead the way when it came for calling for political change.
“Al-Wafd is ‘The House of the Nation’,” he said, “It is the leader of Egyptian opposition parties and the oldest of all. We are opening our party to all politicians and opposition parties, as long as our aims are the same. We can talk, discuss, and cooperate. However, no one is entitled to tell us what to do. We have nothing against any of the political parties, and we have nothing to hide. All we hope for is a better future for Egypt and the Egyptians.”
Recent reports in local newspapers had suggested that a secret deal had been struck between Al-Wafd and the ruling National Democratic Party regarding giving Al-Wafd other opposition seats but this was vehemently denied by both sides and a complain was submitted by Al-Wafd against the newspaper that published the claims.