Head of Wafd Party, Al-Sayyid Al-Badawi, was named on Thursday by the party to run in the upcoming 2018 presidential election. The unexpected move brought Wafd to focus, raising controversy about the role that can be played by the party in such critical period in Egypt.
Al-Badawi’s bid came only one day after President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi submitted his candidacy papers to the National Election Authority to run for a second term.
As lawyer Khaled Ali announced his withdrawal from the presidential bid, former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik also retreated from the race, and former Military Chief of Staff Sami Anan was removed from the voters’ database, Al-Badawi seemed to be the only prominent candidate to face Al-Sisi.
Egypt Today will summarize in the following lines how Wafd party reached the current stage.
Wafd is believed to be Egypt’s oldest national liberal party and always played a significant role in the Egyptian political scene. It is sometimes called “the New Wafd Party” because it is the extension of the original one which was dismantled after the 1952 Revolution. The New Wafd was established in 1978.
Wafd’s history dates back to the beginning of party life under the monarchy, making it the oldest among existing Egyptian political parties. The story began when Saad Zaghloul, an Egyptian revolutionary and statesman, led a popular delegation in 1919 to the post-World War I Paris Peace Conference to demand independence for Egypt against the will of British occupation authorities. British authorities exiled Zaghloul along with two other members of the delegation to Malta. This move instigated a mass uprising, which led to the 1919 Revolution.
Zaghloul and his companions transformed their Paris delegation into a political party carrying the name Wafd (The Delegation). Shortly thereafter, King Fuad I declared Egypt a constitutional monarchy and issued a new constitution that paved the way for forming Egypt’s first elected parliament after British recognition of the country’s independence. Wafd Party won the majority of the seats in Egypt’s first parliament in 1924, and Zaghloul became Egypt’s first prime minister under the new Constitution.
After the 1952 Revolution, Wafd was dissolved along with all other political parties, until 1978 when President Anwar Sadat allowed the formation of political parties. Al-Wafd was resurrected under the name of the “New Wafd Party”, now known simply as Wafd.
Known for its national and liberal principles, Wafd always called for democracy, freedom of speech, and independence of the judiciary. It was one of the first political movements that demanded and applied equality between Muslims and Copts. One of Zaghloul’s famous quotes reflected that principle, “religion is for God and the nation is for all,” which contemporary defenders of national unity in Egypt still invoke.
Wafd has a powerful and coherent internal structure. The party is run by a Supreme Council which includes fifty members, all elected by the General Assembly, and is said to be the highest decision making body in the party.
Since its relaunch, Wafd has emerged as an influential player in the political arena. The party has the largest network of branches and representatives, covering major cities in all Egyptian governorates.
Wafd has a large membership base, consisting of various social segments notably a number of political and cultural figures making the party stand out as one of the few established parties that truly represent the Egyptian street. The party also enjoys a very strong presence in the media, thanks to its famous daily newspaper and Internet portal. Additionally, Wafd’s leader Al-Badawi is owner of Al-Hayat, one of Egypt’s top television channels.
Al-Badawi first joined Al-Wafd in 1983 and became secretary general of the party in 2000. He was elected as the party’s leader since 2010 and was reelected in 2014.
In May 2015, the party was hit by strife sparking a feud between rival factions. By the end of the month, new elections were held; Badawi remained and his supporters won most of the new spots on the council.
Other ranking members of the party include: Fuad Badrawi, the grandson of the man who reconstituted Wafd back in the 1970s; Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, former minister of industry, trade, and investment; and Ahmed Al-Arab, Safir Nour, Ahmed Auda, and Noaman Gomaa, all of whom have served in party leadership.
Wafd’s edgy relation with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) dates back to the 1940s, as the MB began challenging Al-Wafd’s long-standing dominance inside the political arena, supported by the monarch.
The cautious relation remained under former president Gamal Abdel Naser before he dissolved both bodies. The MB and Wafd returned to the political scene following President Anwar Sadat’s decision to transform Egypt’s one-party system into a limited multi-party one. Under Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood was generally allowed to participate in political life without an official legal status, emulating Wafd in the parliament.
However, the 1984 parliamentary elections witnessed a coalition between the MB and Wafd in an attempt to counterbalance the dominance of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The two groups managed to win fifty-eight seats in the 458-member parliament. Soon after, relations between the Brotherhood and Al-Wafd soured and their cooperation became limited.
During the 2005 parliamentary elections, Al-Wafd claimed that the Mubarak regime helped the MB to win eighty-eight seats to undermine and threaten liberal opposition groups that disagree with the MB’s Islamist agenda.
In the same year, late Wafd leader Noaman Gomaa ran in Egypt’s first presidential election, finishing third behind politician Ayman Nour of the then-newly formed Ghad Party and then-ruling Mubarak. Despite calls for boycotting the elections, Wafd insisted to name a candidate in the presidential race ignoring concerns of giving credibility to the elections.
In the 2010 parliamentary elections, most opposition parties, including Wafd agreed to boycott the poll, but Wafd’s leaders changed their mind and began fielding candidates. Soon afterward, the MB and others followed suit. Wafd had already won two seats in the first round, but Al-Badawi decided to boycott the run-offs in protest of what he described as electoral fraud. He added that Al-Wafd “wants to stand by the people and not by a deceitful parliament.” Many of the party’s candidates who qualified for the run-off races disregarded Al-Badawi’s directions and participated anyway.
January 25 Revolution
Representatives of the Al-Wafd Party joined anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square and vowed not to have a dialogue with government officials until Mubarak relinquished his office.
After the 2011 Egyptian revolution forced President Mubarak to announce that he would step down in the coming elections, the government invited opposition parties to participate in dialogue. Wafd accepted the invitation on condition that protesters would not be attacked.
Following the revolution, Wafd launched its alliance (the National Democratic Alliance for Egypt) with the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the MB, to present a joint list of candidates for the 2011 parliamentary election.
After a wave of criticism against the party for cooperating with Islamists, the Wafd decided to participate in the elections independently, and left the Democratic Alliance for Egypt.
Wafd won 9.2% of the vote, with 38 seats in the 508-seat parliament. It was the third-most successful party, after the FJP with 213 seats, and the more conservative Islamist Al-Nour Party with 107 seats.
June 30 Revolution
Wafd strongly backed the popular uprising that toppled the MB-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi, and welcomed the verdict of dissolving the Brotherhood and banning all of its activities.
“June 30 Revolution managed to protect the state institutions and kept its identity,” said Al Badawy, “It liberated the national decision from subordination to foreign powers.”
During the 2014 presidential election, Al-Sisi declared that he did not want to establish a party supporting him in the poll. A group of parties, among them Wafd, announced in March 2014 that they would stand behind him in the presidential election and form his partisan backer in the parliament.
Leading into 2015 parliamentary elections, Wafd formed its own coalition dubbed the Egyptian Wafd Alliance comprised of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Reform and Development Party, the Conservatives, the Awareness Party, and other smaller political groups. However, on the eve of candidacy registration in February 2015, the party abandoned its coalition and submitted its candidates as part of For the Love of Egypt coalition.
Wafd put forward 300 individual candidates along with 8 candidates on the For the Love of Egypt list. Wafd was the third largest liberal party in the parliament, with 36 seats, preceded by the Free Egyptians Party, with 65 seats, and the Nation’s Future Party, with 53.