Wafd Party retracts boycott threat, warns of “last chance” for government to host fair elections

The Wafd Party announced on Sunday it will participate in parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of November, ending a brief stand-off with the government over Wafd television ads that prompted party leaders to threaten a boycott.

New party leader Sayyed al-Badawi announced, at a crowded press conference in the Party’s Dokki headquarters, that negotiations with the Information Ministry concluded successfully and paid political advertisements for the Wafd party would be permitted to air on state-run channels.

But al-Badawi warned that the coming electoral round represents a “last chance” for the government to prove it is serious about creating a free, fair and transparent democratic process.

The party, which brushed aside Mohammed ElBaradei’s calls for a mass opposition boycott, briefly threatened to pull out of the race last week, claiming that their right to open access to media was being denied. State television officials have repeatedly denied any sort of ban was ever in place, claiming merely that the Wafd ads had not yet received the required approval from the Supreme Elections Committee.

Whichever the reality, the issue has now apparently been resolved to the Wafd’s satisfaction. Despite the threats, it seems doubtful the Wafd ever truly considered boycotting the upcoming vote. The opposition party is expected to make major gains in parliament this year as a concerted government effort will likely reduce the 88-seat bloc of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. As the largest legally licensed opposition party involved in the election, the Wafd and its leadership openly expect to absorb some of those lost Brotherhood seats and build on the party’s seven-seat bloc.

In an interview earlier this year with Al-Masry Al-Youm, Wafd Secretary General Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour said the party’s mid-level activists were extremely optimistic about their chances in the elections.

“They think that the government will be very harsh towards the Muslim Brothers, and those who will benefit from this situation will be the legal opposition parties,” Abdel Nour said.

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