Al-Dostour Party youth stormed the party’s main headquarters on Monday night, starting another sit-in calling for restructuring the party.
Members of Al-Dostour held a sit-in at the party headquarters on 6 January, with similar demands.
After the death of party member Sha’arawy Abdel Baqy Sha’arawy from a heart attack during a party meeting, the rift inside the party was exacerbated. Sha’arawy died after fierce discussions during which he advocated for party representatives to be elected rather than appointed.
Protesters are demanding that all party branches nationwide be restructured through direct elections. Leading party members have repeatedly rejected this idea.
Hazem Al-Zoheiry, a protesting party member, said that the protesters’ demand for restructuring the party was similar to Sha’arawy’s vision of a more democratic party structure. Steps to implement his vision were outlined in a plan he developed and applied in the 6th of October party secretariat.
“How could a post-revolutionary liberal party reject elections?” Al-Zoheiry asked.
Shaarawy’s wife, Nehal Atteya, expressed the same opinion. “If Al-Dostour is really a party seeking state democracy, than how come they’re stalling bottom-up elections within the party offices?” she asked. She stated that most of the youth members participating in the sit-in were members of an institution she recently launched in her late husband’s name, adding that she agrees with the protesters’ demands.
Yehia Al-Safty, a party member who led the first sit-in, said that members were repeatedly promised elections. “We had agreed with party head Mohamed ElBaradei to hold elections in June,” Al-Safty said. He accused party leaders Emad Abu Ghazy and Ahmed Al-Borei of halting the party’s restructuring.
The protesters are also demanding an investigation into the resignation of Hossam Eissa, the party’s founding member and former head of its steering committee. Eissa was leading a movement to restructure the party when he resigned.
“Eissa said he resigned due to corruption within the party,” Al-Zoheiry said. “I have built this party with my own hands; how can I stand silent against allegations that it suffers from corruption?”
The protesters are demanding the resignation of Abu Ghazy, Al-Borei and the party’s spokesperson Khaled Dawoud. Al-Safty accused the latter of being corrupt and of stalling campaigns party youth were working on.
Dawoud could not be reached for comment. Abu Ghazy released a statement on the party’s official website condemning the protesters who broke into the headquarters.
“Political parties cannot be managed in this way,” Abu Ghazy said in his statement. He added that the protesters have violated the law as they “occupied a public place owned by all party members”. He also accused them of stealing the party’s private papers and breaching its bylaws, and added that they will be punished according to the party bylaws.
Moataz Shaarawy, Shaarawy’s brother and one of the protesters, said that all founding members of the party had delegated party chairman Mohamed ElBaradei to lead the party. There were no bylaws governing the party upon its foundation. “ElBaradei then handed over the leadership of the party to a failed group of leaders who transformed it from a democratic party to a centralised one which solely depends on appointments,” Moataz Shaarawy said.
Al-Zoheiry stated that none of the protesters were directly approached by party leaders. “We wish that ElBaradei could hear our demands and our anger,” Al-Zoheiry said. “He’s the figure who drew us all into joining the party.”
On beginning the sit-in, the protesters presented a roadmap out of the party’s current crisis. This involves electing an interim steering committee consisting of nine of the party’s founding members. The interim committee would be tasked with forming an independent and neutral committee to draft permanent bylaws based on Al-Shaarawy’s restructuring vision. The committee would also put a schedule for bottom-up elections and investigate the reasons behind Eissa’s resignation.
“If this roadmap is not adopted soon, we will hold a press conference next Saturday as a form of escalation,” Shaarawy said.
Mohamed Haggag, Al-Dostour party coordinator for the Mid-Cairo region, condemned the latest rift. “Unfortunately, both groups are acting like the bear which killed its owner out of love,” Haggag said, in reference to an Egyptian expression. “They are both seeking the party’s best interests, yet each faction believes only its own perspective will help the party to become better.”
In January 2013, around 120 of the party youth staged a sit-in in objection to decisions by ElBaradei to appoint members in influential committees and his refusal to dismiss other members. The protest came to an end on 14 January after ElBaradei agreed to meet members and discuss their demands.