Divisions sweep leftist Tagammu over parliamentary runoffs

Local leaders of the leftist Tagammu party staged a sit-in on Saturday to protest against the party's decision to continue participating in Sunday’s parliamentary runoffs, which they said will be rigged.

The local leaders, who represent 17 governorates in Egypt, called for the party’s chairman, Rifaat al-Saeed, to boycott the runoffs, and thus send a message to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) that the elections lack legitimacy. 

On Friday, the local leaders were prevented from going into the party’s headquarters in downtown Cairo, as it was shut down. Instead, they decided to hold a meeting in an alternate place and called for the party’s central committee to hold a vote of no confidence in al-Saeed. 

The party fielded around 70 candidates in 21 governorates, a number that makes the party the fourth largest political power in terms of candidate number.

However, the party failed to garner but one seat.

This failure sparked discontent among party members who accused their chairman of making a deal with the NDP.

Al-Badry Farghaly, one of the most prominent party members, resigned this week saying that his party “has become an arm of the ruling National Democratic Party.”

Various governorate branches of the party called for an official withdrawal from the runoffs. However, Tagammu’s executive board turned down all calls for a boycott.

The party has six candidates that are competing in Sunday’s runoffs.

On Wednesday, both the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberal Wafd party announced that they would boycott the runoffs due to irregularities reported in the first round of voting.

The Wafd, which fielded some 220 candidates, won only two seats, while the banned-but-tolerated Muslim Brotherhood, which controlled one fifth of the outgoing parliament, failed to win a single seat.

Tagammu’s Vice President Anees al-Beaa' said on Saturday that the rising opposition within the party doesn't mean that "the party is failing or turning into chaos."

Ghada al-Baya', a member of the party's central committee who represents Giza governorate, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that "the party's decision to continue contesting the runoffs is not legal since it was issued by a committee that doesn't have the right to take decisions."

"This move is unprecedented, to have such deep resentment towards the party's chairman," a party member who is closer to al-Saeed told Al-Masry Al-Youm on condition of anonymity. "Its outcome will not be evident straight away, because al-Saeed has a tight grip over the party.” 

Angry leaders demaned that the central committee to investigate the party's decision to continue competing in the elections.

Moreover, the Egyptian Communist Party, an unlicensed party that nevertheless has a presence in Tagammu, also condemned the decision to continue contesting the elections, signaling yet another strong blow to the party’s top leadership.

Acknowledging the gravity of the current situation, a party source expected that al-Saeed will not be easily forced to resign.

“Tagammu members have always been known for their hypersensitivity to factionalisms and internal divisions,” the source said.

“And at the end of the day, al-Saeed never talked about a comprehensive deal with the government prior to the elections,” added the source, noting that the 78-year-old leader’s major fault was that he “convinced his rank and file members that he had enough guarantees from the regime that the elections would be fair and free.”

Rumors about comprehensive backroom deals between the regime and Egypt’s secular opposition parties had widely circulated before the elections, with both sides vehemently denying them.   

Al-Saeed is expected to leave the office in 2012 after serving two consecutive terms as chairman.

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