Liberal parties play down rumors of internal strife after ‘mass resignations’

Two of Egypt's newly established liberal parties have been facing criticism of late for allegedly recruiting former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) members to their ranks, with various media sources linking the controversy to a spate of "mass resignations" by members of the new parties.

Both the Masriyeen al-Ahrar (Free Egyptians) and Adl (Justice) parties have refuted recent claims in the privately-owned Al-Fajr and Al-Tahrir newspapers, among others, that they are recruiting members of the defunct NDP into their ranks to boost their chances of winning seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections through candidates with already established popular bases.

The two parties also faced media reports of "mass resignations” over the past few weeks, although both parties insist that the internal squabbling originated from disgruntled members who hadn’t managed to achieve their personal goals since obtaining membership.

The Free Egyptians Party issued a statement on the subject on 14 July when 31 members in the Delta city of Daqahliya resigned after accusing the party of catering to former NDP stalwarts to boost membership numbers.

The statement claimed that no NDP members who were in their positions on 25 January 2011 or who participated in the parliamentary electoral process in 2010 would be allowed in the new party, and urged members to ignore rumors aimed at weakening the party.

“We have objections to the leaders of the NDP and those who ran in 2010 and those who ruined political life,” said Bassel Adel, a member of the party’s presidential council. “But we cannot dismiss the 6 million members of the NDP, some who were made members without their knowledge and others who didn’t want to risk trouble at their employment.”

The party claims to have a committee responsible for reviewing the backgrounds of its members, removing those discovered to have been NDP members in the past. However, Adel said, “We have over 100,000 members now and it is impossible to know them all and their histories right away.”

The party, which is partly bankrolled by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, recently celebrated its membership passing the 100,000 mark. As it and other parties of a similar ilk begin to gain prominence in the political sphere, reports of internal strife are bound to make it to the media.

In mid-June, 31 members of the party in Daqahlia announced their resignations after a public conference held in the city of Mansoura because of the attendance of former NDP members. The party stated at the time that the conference was open to the public and it couldn’t vet those attending.

However, Adel said that the resignations were not in fact related to the presence of former NDP members at the conference, but were a tactical maneuver by some players in an internal struggle within the party. “Some people join because they want a certain position or title, and when they don’t get it they insult you and then use the NDP card,” he said.

The Adl Party found itself in a similar situation in August, when 40 members from Suez resigned en masse, stating their disapproval at how the party was being run internally and the direction it was taking. Again, the response from the party's leadership was that these members had been unsuccessful in the party’s internal elections and were using excuses so as not to admit this.

The party also dismissed reports stating that the resignations were due to the party receiving foreign funding and having former NDP members on its roster.

“If we were welcoming of NDP members, we wouldn’t be taking the political direction we are taking,” said Khaled Gasser, the party’s general coordinator in Alexandria. “We refuse to have ties with NDP members. We are far away from accepting somebody like this.”

Gasser said that the party had its own committee responsible for vetting applicants, and that anyone who initially slips through the system will later be removed if discovered.

“The [constant] criticism makes me happy,” he said. “It means we are on the map and are making progress.”

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