After dismissing business tycoon ‘Naguib Sawiris’ from the political party he founded in 2011, is Al-Sisi getting rid of his old supporters?

The ‘Free Egyptians Party’ dismissed business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the founder of the liberal political party, five days after he was referred to the party’s disciplinary committee for investigations following a press conference he held with members of the Board of Trustees last Tuesday.

Essam Khalil, the party’s president, said the committee summoned Sawiris for investigations into accusations that he insulted the Board of Trustees during the press conference. Khalil stated that the business tycoon did not attend the investigation on schedule, prompting the committee to take the decision of dropping his membership.

Khalil said in a statement that Sawiris can file a complaint with the party’s appeals committee within 15 days starting from his dismissal, and can then resort to the judiciary.

The undersecretary of the Board of Trustees, Ragy Soliman, said the dismissal of Sawiris is “a new episode of a satire show about a group that has a limited insight”.

He added in a statement that “the gossip about dismissing the founder of the party is not surprising, as it comes from those people whose actions lack any logic and are not consistent with the party’s internal regulations.”

Sawiris is still a member of the party and the Board of Trustees, along with all the honorable members of the party and its leaders whose memberships were frozen or referred to the party’s discipline committee, according to Ragy Soliman said, “We tell them that we’ll retrieve our party through law, and we will win with our principles as we are completely confident of our legal position. Moreover, we are sure that the Egyptian judiciary will restore things to normal.”

Sawiris, with a net wealth worth of US$3.8 billion according to Forbes, founded the liberal Free Egyptians Party in 2011 soon after January Revolution that had overthrown the country’s autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Is it an Internal Conflict or a Planned Plot by the Regime to Control the Party?  

Sawiris said previously that he was fighting a takeover by the president of the party, whom he accused of being a rubber stamp for the authorities.

On December 31,2016, Naguib Sawiris responded on Twitter to a comment by one of his followers wondering whether the state had nationalized the opposition party as if it were an economic enterprise, saying, “Well said.”

The Free Egyptians Party is the largest party in the Egyptian parliament with 65 members.

On December, the president of the Free Egyptians Party, Essam Khalil, held a press conference announcing the approval by the party’s General Conference members of amendments to the bylaws and the dissolution of the Board of Trustees, which is deemed the supreme authority of the party.

This step inferred the overthrow of Sawiris, one of the largest party sponsors and a prominent member of its Board of Trustees.

Sawiris perceived this procedure and the state’s nationalization of the party as illegal.

In response, he wrote on Twitter, “Do not be sad when Time betrays you because dogs have always danced on the bodies of lions. Do not think their dance gives them power, for dogs stay dogs and lions stay lions.”

In addition, Sawiris stated in another tweet that he would resort to justice, saying, “Now, we would have to resort to the courts unless the judiciary was also nationalized.

He also said “Everyone knows that I withdrew quietly since I felt a general disapproval. I am baffled and suspicious as to why the battle is being waged inside the party and about its timing and purpose.”

Nasr al-Qaffas, a member of the party’s political bureau, pointed out that the dispute between Khalil and Sawiris had been boiling up for more than three months when Sawiris started feeling that the Free Egyptians Party was becoming closer to the regime.

In the same context, Negad al-Borai, the rights lawyer, commented December 31 on Twitter saying, “What happened within the Free Egyptians Party confirms that the political life is facing a wave of nationalization, just like what happened to media outlets. We should not let this happen.”

Is al-Sisi Regime Marginalizing its its old supporters?

It is worth to mention that Sawiris was one of al-Sisi supporters. He said that he was backing Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for the presidency in 2014”

In a lengthy interview published in Al-Ahram , a state-owned newspaper, on February 12,2014, Sawiris said, “Most of the political forces agree on choosing Al-Sisi as president… to end the status of confusion, chaos and terrorism that spread nationwide.”

He added, “People considered Al-Sisi as a savior who rescued them from the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Moreover, Naguib Sawiris stated openly to The Times that he supported “Tamarod” or rebellion movement that led a petition drive seeking President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

Sawiris donated the use of the nationwide offices and infrastructure of his political party. In addition, he allowed the use of his television network and press.

After the military coup in 2013, media reports unveiled that Tamarod movement was linked with Egypt’s interior ministry and its members also have admitted in press interviews of connections with the army.

According to a Reuters’ report published in 2013, officials at Egypt’s interior ministry helped collect signatures to back Tamarod and joined in the protests. A security official said, “Of course, we joined and helped the movement, as we are Egyptians like them and like everyone else. “

Moreover, Moheb Doss, one of Tamarod’s co-founders and main organizers, stated that the group’s leaders received communications from the Army and other state institutions who had turned on Morsi in two ways.

Doss said that he didn’t take part in these communications, but that they were well known among Tamarod’s leaders. The meetings with retired Army officers, he says, related strictly to security.

Al-Sisi, Egypt’s former defense minister, launched a military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president. Since then, the Egyptian authorities have launched massive crackdown on political opposition, journalists, and human rights organization.

Many experts believe that the regime in Egypt is highly present in these conflicts and events that are taking place these days inside the liberal party, especially that Sawiris released statements against the regime more than once.

Recently, Sawiris called Alaa Abed, who was appointed by the regime as the head of the human rights committee, as a “torturing expert”, which is considered as a “crossing to the red lines” according to the norms of the military regime in Egypt.

In addition, Sawiris has taken several steps recently that resulted in attracting investors to work in Cyprus, which is the business center for the Egyptian tycoon and some of his business partners.

Moreover, the dismissal of Sawiris from the party infers that there is a trend that aims to change the party’s performance in the parliament to become a supporter of the state and the government.

Many observers believe that the coming period will witness further cooperation between the Free Egyptians Party and the ‘Support Egypt’ coalition (pro-Sisi coalition).

Will Sawiris be able to resolve this conflict? or Is the regime replacing its own men and there is no room for reconciliation?