Egypt Pulse

Is crisis looming within Egypt's oldest political party?

Article Summary
Is the Wafd Party's decision to sack former party leader Al-Sayyid al-Badawi Shehata orchestrated by the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi?

CAIRO — The Higher Committee of the Wafd Party, headed by legal adviser Bahaa Abu Shaqqa, decided Sept. 2 to formally suspend the membership of former party leader Al-Sayyid al-Badawi Shehata.

The liberal Wafd Party is one of the oldest Egyptian parties that was founded in 1918 and was the majority party before the revolution of July 23, 1952, which ended the reign of the monarchy and turned the country into a republican system.

Shehata announced on Dec. 3, 2018, that he would stop all his activities in the Wafd Party in a formal letter he sent to the party without stating any details.

Shehata was the head of the Wafd Party from 2010 to 2018. He is also the founder of Al-Hayat satellite TV channel, which he sold for $85 million in September 2017 to Tawasol, a subsidiary of Falcon, whose chairman of the board is Maj. Gen. Khaled Sharif, a former officer in the military intelligence.

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He is considered a business guru and is also the chairman of the board of Sigma Pharmaceutical Industries.

On Aug. 5, Shehata issued a statement in response to the decision by Abu Shaqqa to suspend his membership on the same day, before the Higher Committee endorsed this decision.

Shehata said that he tried to resign several times before because he did not approve of the immoral and unethical conduct of the members of the party, which became an address for advancing personal interests. He added that he changed his mind about resigning under pressure from party members and decided to freeze his membership instead. 

“The decision of Wafd Party leader Abu Shaqqa — which was endorsed by the Higher Committee — came after he [Abu Shaqqa] submitted a memorandum explaining that the committee gave Shehata a full month starting June 19 through July 19 to settle his differences with some companies after he was sentenced to jail by several courts,” Wafd Party Secretary-General Fouad Badrawi told Al-Monitor via phone.

Shehata was sentenced to jail unless he provided proof of his innocence and had also to settle his debts to companies within one month, which he failed to do. Hence, the decision to suspend his party membership. Badrawi said that Shehata does no longer meet the membership's main conditions, which are good conduct and reputation.

On March 9, 2016, the North Giza Court of Appeal issued a final ruling, binding Shehata to pay businessman Alaa al-Kahky a compensation of $6.1 million for terminating his contract with Media Line, the advertising agency of the Al-Hayat satellite TV channel network.

The October Appellate Misdemeanor Court rejected on Jan. 17, 2018, Shehata's appeal against the six-year prison sentence and upheld his imprisonment and a 1 million Egyptian pound ($61,000) bail in the case of issuing unsubstantiated checks to Hisham Mohamed Ibrahim Shaaban, general manager of King Tut for Media Production company.

Prior to the ratification of the decision to suspend Shehata’s membership, Abu Shaqqa issued a decision July 28, dismissing member of the Higher Committee Alaa al-Weshahi from the party and all its formations.

In a July 28 statement, the party said the decision came after Weshahi routinely abused his fellow party members and leaders using social media

Sherif Hammouda, a member of the party’s Higher Committee, said that the dismissal decision is arbitrary and a great loss to the party, in light of the recurrent sacking of the party’s leaders by unilateral decision by Abu Shaqqa.

Hammouda told Al-Monitor that sacking Shehata and all other leaders on his team is a retaliatory decision that is not based on the law and the bylaws of the party, but within the framework of settling accounts with Shehata — in other words to get him out of the political scene because of his views that are not in line with those of Abu Shaqqa who is a staunch supporter of the ruling regime. 

He said that Abu Shaqqa decided to sack six members of the Wafd Party, including Hammouda himself, after they complained against the results of the Higher Committee elections on Nov. 11, 2018, as they were not elected. Twenty Wafd members, including those sacked, filed a petition with Abu Shaqqa to annul the results claiming a miscount in the votes. The party president disregarded the request. 

Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University, believes that the state’s security services are working to liquidate Shehata politically and at the media level after forcing him to pay the debts of Al-Hayat by having it sold and then to completely remove him from the Wafd Party. He explained that the state wants him out because of suspicions of his previous link to the Muslim Brotherhood. 

In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Nafaa said that Abu Shaqqa is known for his strong loyalty to the government. Abu Shaqqa headed the legislative and constitutional committee in the Egyptian parliament in 2018.

His son, Mohamed Bahaa al-Din Abu Shaqqa, was also chosen by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as legal counsel for his presidential campaign and official spokesman, which reveals his closeness to the circles of power and government in Egypt.

Nafaa believes that the state is very likely working to shun Shehata from the party to prevent him from playing any major political role. He noted that the Sisi regime is ensuring the loyalty of all the Wafd Party members.

Nafaa added that the state does not wish to see any political members or businessmen who are not affiliated with it to shoot to prominence. He said that the Egyptian regime is likely to have the security services restrict Shehata's activities, as some of the party parliamentarians in his time refused the agreement to cede the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, mainly Wafd Party member Mohammad Fouda who resigned on June 15, 2017, in protest to the agreement.

Shehata had the intention to run for the presidency in 2018 and there are old leaks from 2012 where he talked about the possibility of him winning the presidential race with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

On Sept. 11, 2018, Abu Shaqqa decided to dismiss Badrawi from the party and all its constituencies, according to a statement issued by the party, because the parliamentarian mocked the party's claim of irresponsibility for the draft personal status law submitted to parliament.

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Found in: al-sayyid al-badawi shehata, abdel fattah al-sisi, muslim brotherhood, egyptian politics, dismissal, wafd party

At times, Al-Monitor withholds the bylines of our correspondents for their protection. Different authors may have written the individual stories identified with this byline.

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