Al-Sayed Al-Badawi Shehata (known as Al-Sayed Al-Badawi) is the current leader of Al-Wafd party.
Al-Badawi, a business tycoon, has been on Al-Wafd`s Higher Committee since 1989. He was Al-Wafd’s Secretary General before being elected to the party’s leadership in 2010.
Graduating from the University of Alexandria’s faculty of pharmacy in 1973, Al-Badawi entered the pharmaceuticals industry, where he was able to make a substantial fortune. He founded and is the current chairman and CEO of Sigma Pharmaceutical Industries. In this capacity, Al-Badawi has invested heavily in the Egyptian media. He owns Al-Hayat satellite TV channel, and in 2010 he bought the dissident opposition daily newspaper Al-Dostour. Al-Badawi later sold his shares in Al-Dostour to his partner, Reda Edward.
Before the Revolution
Al-Badawi’s role in the media sector before the start of the January 25 Revolution shaped his image as a public figure.
Considerable controversy over press freedoms arose when Al-Badawi and fellow Wafdist Reda Edward bought the daily Al-Dostour and fired its prominent editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa, along with Al-Dostour’s editorial team, ahead of the 2010 parliamentary elections. In the wake of this incident, prominent Wafidist members resigned. They included poet Ahmad Fouad Negm. At the time, critics accused Al-Badawi of doing the “dirty work” of the Mubarak regime.
Eissa’s sharp criticism of the Mubarak regime, and particularly of the potential dynastic succession of Mubarak’s son, Gamal, led many to believe that Al-Badawi`s takeover of Al-Dostour and his nearly instant dismissal of Eissa was part of a deal with the regime. It was widely suggested that in such a deal, Al-Wafd party would win a relatively substantial number of seats in the incoming parliament, thus replacing the Muslim Brotherhood as the main opposition party in the lower house. In return, Al-Badawi would be obliged to use his vast fortune to rid the regime of the “nuisance” represented by Ibrahim Eissa`s daily newspaper.
Al-Badawi`s announcement at the time that Al-Wafd would secure at least twenty seats in parliament helped confirm that widespread belief. Al-Badawi sold his share in Al-Dostour on the same day that Eissa was fired, presumably trying to distance himself from mounting controversy.
However, when the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) swept the first round of 2010 parliamentary polls, Al-Wafd chose to boycott the runoff elections. Al-Wafd claimed foul play after only two of members won seats in the first round. Many of the party’s candidates who qualified for the run-off races disregarded Al-Badawi’s directive to boycott the poll and participated anyway.
Al-Badawi’s ownership of Al-Hayat satellite TV channel is another source of controversy surrounding Al-Wafd’s leader. His success in securing a TV license from the state prior to the January 25 Revolution raised many questions at the time, as it was believed that the Mubarak regime handed out such licenses only to loyal individuals that it trusts. Before the revolution, the TV channel was believed to be pro-regime. Mahmoud Mosallam, the channel’s manager, was purported to enjoy a close relationship with Mubarak’s son and once likely heir.
Al-Badawi was elected leader of the Al-Wafd party in 2010, running against former party leader, Mahmoud Abaza. His leadership of the party brought an end to a fierce leadership battle between Abaza and his predecessor, Noaman Gomaa, who was Al-Wafd’s presidential nominee in 2005.
Although Al-Badawi was critical of the Mubarak regime and a prominent figure in the opposition, he also stated that “no one can deny the legitimacy” of Mubarak’s rule a few months before the January 25 Revolution erupted.
The Revolution and Beyond
During the eighteen-day uprising that ousted Mubarak on 11 February 2011, Al-Badawi did not participate in the Tahrir Square sit-in. His TV channel, Al-Hayat, was initially hostile to the anti-Mubarak uprising.
Al-Badawi claims that he approved Al-Wafd youth’s participation in the “March of Millions” and other protests during the week that preceded Mubarak’s overthrow. Yet the Revolution’s Youth Coalition (RYC), an alliance of some of the Mubarak era’s most eminent opposition groups, has openly questioned Al-Wafd’s conspicuous absence in the first weeks of the revolution.
The RYC’s criticism came after Al-Badawi denounced the 8 July 2011 sit-in, in which dozens of groups took part. Al-Badawi claimed that the sit-in participants had played no role in the January 25 Revolution.
He has since focused on the forthcoming parliamentary elections, strongly criticizing electoral laws that have been recently issued by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Al-Badawi warns that this legislation may allow the former ruling party, dissolved by court ruling, to resurface on the country`s political stage. Interestingly, Al-Badawi later disclosed to the media that Al-Wafd’s candidate lists include four individuals who were once affiliated with the former ruling party. The disclosure came after many observers had accused Al-Wafd of fielding former ruling party candidates on their electoral lists.
Al-Badawi’s political experience derives from his career with the Al-Wafd Party. He became party secretary in Al-Gharbeya province in 1983. In 1989, he was promoted to the Supreme Council, making him the youngest member in the party`s top leadership. Al-Badawi became the party’s secretary-general in 2000 and chairman in 2010.
Al-Badawi has stated that Al-Wafd party`s decision to withdraw from the run-off elections in 2010 prompted the Muslim Brotherhood to do the same, and thus drilled the first nail in the Mubarak regime’s coffin.
[Developed in partnership with Ahram Online.]
From Jadaliyya Editors:
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