Al-Wafd: the journey of Egypt’s emblematic political party

Al-Wafd: the journey of Egypt’s emblematic political party

Egyptian House of Representatives | Photo credit: Daily News Egypt

A beacon of liberation, of a renewed national spirit and of secular conviction, al-Wafd rose to become one of the most important political parties in Egypt. The eruption of the 1919 Revolution, led by Saad Zaghloul, freed Egypt from the shackles of British occupation and authorized for the creation of the country’s first institutionalized political organizations in contemporary history.

Egypt was on the cusp of political revolution and modernity.

Under the leadership of Saad Zaghloul and Mostafa El-Nahas, al-Wafd inaugurated into a new era of leadership after the end of British rule. Al-Wafd became a dominant political force garnering massive public support and admiration. The party could to contribute immensely to the elaboration of the 1923 Constitution and to the evolution of the political system reigning in Egypt.

The 1923 Constitution had established a new constitutional monarchy, where power would emanate from a representative body of nationally elected parliamentarians. Wafdists strongly supported the end of dynastic rule and encouraged more democratic forms of governance.

In the parliamentary elections of 1924, al-Wafd won emphatically obtaining 179 of the 211 parliamentary seats. As newly elected prime minister, Zaghloul chose a cross-section of Egyptian society for his cabinet, which he appointed the “ministry of the people”.

According to Raymond Hinnebusch, a distinguished professor of international relations and Middle East politics at the University of St. Andrews, Saad Zaghloul’s “rhetoric took on an anti-establishment tone, however, Wafd leaders – lawyers and landlords – have never questioned the sanctity of privacy. property or envisioned a social revolution.

The Wafdist government did not last long, however.

Over a period of three decades, between the end of British rule and the outbreak of the 1952 Revolution, the balance of power between the king, the Wafdist leaders and the British residence rest turbulent. It was further exacerbated by the reluctance of the al-Wafd to consolidate their political powers.

The Wafdist leadership had “allowed the British to impose a semi-constitutional regime reserving broad powers to the king and themselves, and chose to work within that system.”

Although the party became one of the most successful political organizations and was the ruling party, albeit with limited political power, the rise of Gamal Abd El-Nasser quickly ended the era of liberal politics in Egypt.

After the 1952 Revolution, led by Gamal Abd El-Nasser, all political parties were abolished.

Nasser’s attempts to dismantle the old political order had successful and the establishment of authoritarian one-party rule led by the Free Officers Movement became the political reality of Egypt.

The presidencies of Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were quite different from their predecessor. The introduction of limited pluralism had established an increased number of political parties, however, they would remain marginalized largely due to rigid laws and systematic electoral fraud.

In 1978 Al-Wafd was restored again during the time of Anwar Sadat under the party name “New Wafd”. The New Wafd struggled to attract the immense public support it had once garnered in the early 20th century.

A lack coalition of parties with the Muslim Brotherhood in 1984 and later in 2011 under the Democratic Alliance alienate the party of its support base.

New Wafd party again keep on going play an active political role today, with a number of businessmen in its ranks, and is considered one of the best-funded political parties in Egypt.

Party spokesman Yasser al-Hudaybi confirmed that the New Wafd has “500,000 members and more than 220 offices throughout Egypt”.

Recently, the election of Abdel-Sanad Yamama at the head of the New Wafd party promises to breathe renewed vigor and life into one of Egypt’s most important opposition political parties. yamama believes that the previous leadership transformed “al-Wafd into a pro-government party”, thus departing from both its fundamental principles and its doctrine.

Yamama strives to restore the “true role of the New Wafd as an opposition party championing liberal democracy, active political participation, rights, freedoms, social justice, and Egypt’s pioneering role in its Arab and regional sphere.”

Al-Wafd has long been a cornerstone of party politics, create an iconic political front that strove to protect liberal ideals and equality among all Egyptians. The party’s reincarnation under Anwar Sadat and its role under successive regimes testified to the sheer political power commanded under Zaghloul’s leadership.

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