Default election resolves 2-year conflict over Dostour Party presidency

Following nearly two years of internal crises and political deadlock, the Dostour Party has announced the election of new president Khaled Dawoud, the party’s former media spokesperson. He was chosen by default, in the absence of any other candidates.

Ahead of the election, initially scheduled to take place February 10, Dawoud was nominated for the party presidency on an electoral list called Maan Nastatee (Together We Can), however a competing list did not nominate a candidate for the post.

According to Dawoud the deadline for submitting of nominations passed on January 22, and the window for filing and receiving appeals against candidates and electoral lists was January 23. As such, in the absence of other candidates he was formally declared the party’s president on Wednesday.

The Dostour Party was founded in May 2012 by former Vice President for International Relations Mohamed ElBaradei, as a channel for revolutionary youth. ElBaradei served as party president until his resignation in August 2013, when he was succeeded by a former ambassador Sayed Kassem.

In August 2015, the party was thrown into a state of disarray when then president, Hala Shukrallah, resigned. She took the helm in February 2014, at a time when several internal disputes were brewing within the party. Members were divided on several key issues, including how to conduct elections within the party.

Internal disputes also arose within the party’s ranks regarding its official position on the constitutional referendum of 2014, the presidential election later that same year and the 2015 parliamentary elections.

Against the backdrop of these disputes, Shukrallah’s resignation threw the party into a crisis of succession, and it was nearly being torn apart by competing fronts in the process of choosing its next leader.

Dawoud recalls that the party had struggled for nearly two years, prior to Shukrallah’s resignation, to amicably resolve internal squabbles through elections. Yet these elections never took place, a fact which further contributed to infighting and resulted in the resignation of the party’s former secretary-general, Tamer Gomaa, in August 2016.

In his resignation letter, Gomaa spoke of “the fragile basis on which the party’s secretariat is founded,” and “the overwhelming feeling among contenders for the party’s presidency that there is a war to be waged for their survival, as opposed to a competitive election.”

Speaking about his election as party president, Dawoud asserts that an electoral victory by default was not the optimal scenario, nor one he wished for. “I had hoped for vigorous, competitive elections to be held with a list of candidates, presenting of ideas for the development of the party,” he says, adding that his bloc aspired to revive the party, bringing it back on the political scene so as to “fill the political vacuum.”

Dawoud says that he intends to focus on restoring confidence in the party among its youth. He adds that he will conduct tours of the Dostour Party’s regional bureaus and offices in all of Egypt’s governorates, with the aim of “democratically” overcoming internal differences. Dawoud poses that infighting and internal schisms among the ranks of party members often results in the emergence of splinter groups that, in turn, become competing or conflicting parties, saying: “This is the scourge found within Egypt’s political parties.”

Many of Egypt’s significant political parties have seen such schisms in the past years, including the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance Party and the Free Egyptians Party. In most instances these schisms have been attributed to leadership crises following the resignation of top members.

Dawoud claims that he will seek to strengthen joint political actions with other parties under the auspices of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt. This was an umbrella organization comprising several political parties that declared support for former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy. In addition to the Dostour Party, the alliance included the Karama Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, the Popular Current Party and the Masr al-Horreya Party.

Following the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on June 30, 2013, Egypt witnessed the deterioration of several political parties, which Dawoud attributes to the stances taken on the presidential candidacy of military strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He says that deep political schisms emerged as some supported Sisi’s candidacy and others lobbied for the establishment of a civilian-run state.

According to Dawoud’s analysis, further schisms emerged within Egypt’s political parties as a result of direct security interference, including the widespread arrests of party youth in street protests and the promotion of pro-government figures within these parties.

He adds that this security intervention also prevented party youth, particularly those from the Dostour Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, from attending workshops on democracy and human rights in European. The state barred them from travel or confiscated their passports on the pretext that the workshops represented a threat to state security by promoting opposition to the ruling authorities.

Following his election, Dawoud hopes to form a unified front for the defense of pluralism, presenting joint stances on political, economic and social issues affecting the populace. He believes that the foremost political objective in the immediate future is the reduction of the economic burdens weighing on Egypt’s working and middle classes.

Dawoud adds that Egypt’s ruling authorities must set their priorities straight, asking how the state is willing to spend billions on major works it calls national projects, when it should be spending this money on healthcare and education. He asserts that the state should consider increasing wages and alleviating taxes on citizens from low-income brackets.

Dawoud concludes by affirming his belief in the importance of safeguarding the gains of the January 25 Revolution, including: the freedom of assembly, right to peaceful protest, support for civil society organizations, press freedoms and demands for gender equality.

Translated by Jano Charbel

Mai Shams El-Din 

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