Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat –Divisions within the al-Nour party, Egypt’s largest Salafist political party, have further escalated over the past days over contested internal elections. A dispute over internal elections is raging within the party between the al-Islah Front that is affiliated to party president Dr. Emadeddin Abdel-Ghafour – who is also an assistant to Egyptian President Mursi – and the al-Nour party Supreme Committee, that is affiliated to the party’s advocacy branch and representatives of the Islamic “Dawa” committee. This division is primarily over internal elections that were scheduled to take place earlier this week.
Despite the fact that the advocacy branch – led by Salafist cleric Sheikh Yasser Barhami – carried out the internal elections on Sunday, the al-Islah Front declared these elections invalid following Abdel-Ghafour’s decision to postpone them until after parliamentary elections and the issuance of Egypt’s new constitution.
Al-Nour party spokesman, Dr. Yusri Hamad, who is a member of the party’s al-Islah Front, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Egypt’s Political Parties Affairs Committee had taken the decision to postpone the internal al-Nour party elections based on a request by party president Dr. Emadeddin Abdel-Ghafour. He stressed that this invalidates the internal party elections that were held on Sunday.
He also revealed that the al-Nour party committee that had organized the internal elections – which were held throughout 19 governorates – was dissolved by party president Abdel-Ghafour after he received “thousands” of complaints regarding how these elections were conducted.
Dr. Hamad asserted that he had received numerous telephone calls from al-Nour party members from across the country – many of whom were former MPs – strongly rejecting the manner in which the internal elections were managed, particularly in Upper Egypt.
As for whether this crisis is due to conflict between the advocacy and political leadership over control of the party, Hamad told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there must be a division between the two sides within the party in the coming period.” He added that the al-Nour party is in the process of internal reform and this includes ensuring separation between religious advocacy and politics.
Regarding the impact that this crisis is having on the al-Nour party and its political role, spokesman Dr. Yusri Hamad asserted that all political parties must carry out internal reform so that there is credibility within the party. He added that the al-Nour party is leading this internal reform itself in order to bring together the largest possible number of effective cadres who possess the requisite clerical, political and administrative capabilities.
As for the al-Nour party’s regulations, which are currently being contested within the party, the al-Nour party spokesman described these as being general rules of order that were put in place for the transitional period, adding that these should be changed and developed. He added that the new regulations should then be voted on by the -Nour party General Assembly, prior to any internal elections.
For his part, Dr. Younis Makhyoun, a member of the al-Nour party’s Supreme Committee, described the al-Islah Front’s position as being “contrary to Islamic Sharia law”. He stressed that these internal elections had already been announced, whilst two-stage internal examinations had been conducted to select all administrative positions, however the party president Emadeddin Abdel-Ghafour suddenly took the decision to reject this and postpone the elections.
Dr. Makhyoun strongly criticized Abdel-Ghafour’s rejection of the al-Nour party’s Supreme Committee’s decision – agreed by a majority – to go ahead with these internal elections across 19-governorates.
However many al-Nour party members and leaders believe that there is an opportunity to utilize this state of internal political division in the forthcoming period to demonstrate that the al-Nour party is undertaking a process of internal review.
For his part, Dr. Sayad Khalifa – also a member of the al-Nour party’s Supreme Committee – described this division as “positive” and evidence of the Salafist party’s transparency.
He stressed that these differences in viewpoints between the two sides can only be resolved by negotiations, revealing that the al-Nour party Supreme Committee is set to hold a meeting tomorrow to resolve the internal divisions. Dr. Khalifa added that the al-Nour party’s strength will become apparent after this internal dispute has been resolved and its members unite behind the forthcoming decision.