CAIRO: Egypt s oldest opposition party, Al-Wafd, on Friday elected a new leader, who promised to open up the internal debate over how to revive an organization that was trounced in last year s elections.
Mahmoud Abaza, 58, a lawyer, was assured of victory as he was the only candidate who stood in the leadership election.
In an interview with The Associated Press after the polling, Abaza said 1,471 party members had endorsed him as the executive committee s choice for leader.
Abaza takes over a party that was embroiled in messy and violent leadership contest earlier this year when long time leader Noaman Gomaa refused to step down despite the party s miserable performance in last year s elections.
Gomaa, 71, finished third with 3 percent of the vote in the presidential polls in September, and Al-Wafd won only one seat in the parliamentary polls in November and December, when the Muslim Brotherhood captured 88 of the assembly s 454 seats.
Abaza challenged him for the leadership in February, but Gomaa refused to recognize the party s internal elections. On April 1, Gomaa and 14 of his supporters were arrested after a 10-hour clash with Abaza and his loyalists at the party s headquarters in Cairo, during which the offices were set on fire and 28 people were injured.
Our era is going to be different from others, Abaza said Friday, referring to Gomaa s six-year leadership. There will be greater democracy inside the party and we will listen to other opinions, he said.
We have a specific reform plan to be implemented in our party and our country, Abaza added.
The Wafd has traditionally been a liberal, pro-democracy party. AP