Resignations raise questions about future of Egypt’s largest political party ahead of elections

The Nation’s Future Party is unique on Egypt’s political stage, which has more than 100 parties.
Sunday 22/03/2020
Former Secretary-General of the Nation’s Future Party Ashraf Rashad. (Courtesy of Nation’s Future Party)
Uncertain future. Former Secretary-General of the Nation’s Future Party Ashraf Rashad. (Courtesy of Nation’s Future Party)

CAIRO - The Nation’s Future Party, Egypt’s largest political organisation, has been hit with high-level resignations, raising questions about its place in the country’s political scene ahead of parliamentary elections.

Ashraf Rashad, chairman of the Nation’s Future Party, which has a commanding majority in the Egyptian parliament, suddenly stepped down from party leadership March 10. The party’s secretary-general, Hossam al-Kholi, also submitted his resignation, raising questions about the internal workings of the party.

“This is a large political party and such sudden resignations inside it raise fears about its future,” said political commentator Saeed Sadek.

The Nation’s Future Party is unique on Egypt’s political stage, which has more than 100 parties, most of which are small and relatively inactive.

Emerging in 2015, the Nation’s Future Party gained overwhelming support from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who had complained that Egypt’s traditional political parties failed to attract the country’s disgruntled youth, including anti-Mubarak revolutionaries who said the country had failed to move forward on a democratic path.

When it was established, the Nation’s Future Party was meant to bring in those young people. The party’s first leader, Mohamed Badran, was in his 20s and was often seen accompanying Sisi, including during the 2016 inauguration of the parallel channel of the Suez Canal. Badran quit the party’s leadership suddenly in 2016.

In the following years, the party gained influence through a series of political and social activities.

The party recently championed efforts to build consensus among political parties for legislation regulating parliamentary elections, expected by the end of this year or early in 2021.

The sudden party resignations reflect the nature of Egypt’s political life: unexpected and uncertain, political observers said.

Rashad said his resignation was not a result of internal conflicts within the party. “We have been preparing for change for two months now,” he told The Arab Weekly.

However, the lack of details surrounding the resignations, including the absence of official statements, raised concern.

Rashad would be demoted to party deputy chairman, party sources said, and a new party senior official would be selected chairman.

A party official said changes in the upper echelons of leadership are aimed at preparing the Nation’s Future Party for parliamentary elections. The vote is viewed as crucial because the resulting parliament will oversee the formation of the next government.

The official, who requested anonymity, added that the next Nation’s Future Party leader would have to be widely popular, given the competitive nature of the elections.

Kholi backed this view, saying “these developments make it necessary for the party to get ready for expected changes on the political stage.”

“These changes also require the presence of a popular politician to lead the party in the coming period,” he added.

All of Egypt’s parties are readying for parliamentary elections, preparing lists of potential candidates and reaching out to the public for support.

Most Egyptian political parties, including those formed after the 2011 revolution, are not represented in parliament. The country’s oldest parties won only a handful of seats. In contrast, the Nation’s Future Party has a two-thirds majority in parliament, half a million members nationwide and offices in almost all provinces.

It is also believed to have support from state institutions and is viewed positively by much of the population because of its charitable work, including providing free medical services for those in need.

“This is a very important political party,” Sadek said. “This justifies the concern over the sudden changes happening inside it.”